Unfortunately, a lot of the predominant ideas about sexual violence are just plain wrong. For example, a common belief is that if a woman is wearing provocative clothing, then she is at least partly responsible if she is sexually assaulted. Perhaps women should know better than to wear revealing clothing in public. Or women are secretly welcoming any and all sexual activity if they wear revealing clothing. Or perpetrators shouldn’t be expected to control themselves when faced with a woman in provocative clothing.
When we sit down and think of all the things we hear about sexual violence, we can see just how many harmful beliefs exist. If you walk home alone, you’re asking for sexual assault. Men can’t be sexually assaulted. Sexual assault is just part of the job description for sex workers. People lie about getting sexually assaulted. These are all myths and the list goes on and on.
Myths are so problematic because they present a skewed view of the realities of sexual violence. They propagate harmful ideas and are part of the reason why this issue is so frequently misunderstood.
It’s a vicious cycle: when we believe myths, we blame survivors for what someone else has done to them. When we blame survivors, we aren’t holding perpetrators accountable. And when we don’t hold perpetrators accountable, we reinforce a status quo.