Statistics & Information
Rape and Sexual Assault
"If women really want to, they can always say no"
Many women do indeed say no, but rapists do not listen. Some resist physically, try to get away - some of these women do manage to prevent further assault, others suffer greater injury. Other women are terrified and they freeze. Each of these responses should make it very clear to the man that the woman is not freely consenting to, or desiring sex. If a man is determined to have sex, and there is no easy way to escape, it is hard to imagine what difference saying no would make.
Reports from rape survivors reveal that women use a range of strategies to try and get rapists to stop. These include saying no, crying, screaming for help, trying to push him away, trying to talk him out of it, trying to reason with him, begging and pleading him to stop.
"'Real' rapes are committed by strangers in isolated places"
Most rapes are committed by known men, and in a familiar or private space such as the woman or man's home, a hotel room, at work.
"Rapists are sick or perverts or sexually frustrated"
There are very few rapists who, when convicted, are diagnosed as having a mental health problem. If we remember that the largest category of rapists are current or ex-partners, these are not the stereotypical 'loners' but men who are/have been part of families and communities. It is not sexual frustration that underlies their assault, but wanting power and control. Recent studies amongst U.S. college students indicate that a significant proportion of young men say they would rape if they were sure they could get away with it. Since it is likely they could get away with it, this goes some way to explaining how common rape is.
"Only certain types of women get raped"
It used to be thought that only certain 'types' of women got raped: women who were sexually active, 'provocative', or 'victims'. It was particularly argued that young, attractive women were the targets for rape because men seeing them were unable to control their impulses. In fact, women of all ages are raped, including children and grandmothers. Women are raped regardless of sexual experience - nuns, prostituted women, married women, women with lots of boyfriends, women who have never had sex, women with disabilities - no group of women is safe from the possibilities of sexual assault.
"Most complaints of sexual assault are false reports"
This argument relies on ideas such as women getting involved in situations with men and then changing their minds at the last minute, or regretting it the next morning. The most extreme version suggests that women cry rape when it was only sex that they regretted later or did not enjoy. Some of these beliefs come from the idea that women have historically claimed to have been raped in order to protect their reputation. Or because they do not wish to take responsibility for the fact that they 'took risks' by accepting an invitation for coffee or a lift. But there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that there are more false complaints of rape than other crimes. And logic suggests that the proportion is probably less than say for theft, which people often use to support a fraudulent insurance claim. There is no similar gain for a woman reporting rape - indeed why would anyone subject themselves to a lengthy interrogation about intimate violation, and a medical examination about something that did not happen?
"Women ask for it by the way they dress or their behaviour"
This argument suggests that women are responsible for sexually arousing men through their dress or 'flirting'. Some people believe that if women invite men in after a date or allow him to pay for dinner this means they are also agreeing to have sex. In some societies, even being alone or going out for the evening with a man can be regarded as tacit permission. But we all have the right to choose when and with whom we have sex, and no-one has the right to presume this - consent means free agreement, an agreement that is explicitly made between two people where there is no threat or coercion.
Implicit within this view is the idea that men cannot control their sexual desires, and also that women should know this and adapt their behaviour accordingly. Why do so many men feel comfortable with this view of themselves? It is insulting and demeaning to men who do not think that their penises operate independently of their brains.
"To be raped is the worst thing that can happen - so you would resist to the utmost"
Many women assess their attacker, and make moment by moment decisions about their survival. In many circumstances, women being sexually assaulted fear for their lives. When rapists have a weapon, or threaten the victim, most will strategise for their own survival by not unduly alarming or aggravating their attacker; they follow his instructions in order to stay alive, and this may include not making a noise or resisting. Being raped is not worse than being dead or permanently injured - opting to submit is a rational decision, made in a context where there are very few choices or options.