Myth: Only strangers sexually assault

Think about all the times you’ve heard about rape on the news or TV shows. More often than not, it’s a scenario where a creepy male stranger is out lurking in the bushes assaulting women.

In reality though, stranger assault represents less than 18% of sexual assaults[1].

The overwhelming majority of sexual assaults occur in familiar places and with people we trust. They are most often perpetrated by friends, acquaintances, co-workers, supervisors, or family members. Sexual violence is also common in romantic relationships. It can be an isolated incident, or part of a larger pattern of abuse.

So if the majority of perpetrators are people we know, why do we spend so much effort telling women to look out for strangers? We’ve created a whole set of tips centered on this myth: “dont walk alone at night”, “get a ride with someone you know”, “don’t travel alone”, etc. These tips basically tell women to restrict their behaviours and choices for what amounts to little more than a false sense of security.

[1] Statistics Canada. Sexual Assault in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Profile Series, 2004 & 2007.