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Myths vs facts

Myths about rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse and other types of sexual violence cause serious harm. Here, we take a look at some of the most common myths – and separate fact from fiction.

This image shows a woman dressed in a coat and scarf, and standing in a wooded area. Her back is turned to us.

About rape myths

  • Myths about rape and other forms of sexual violence and abuse hold a lot of power in our society – and that can be really dangerous.
  • It can cause victims and survivors to feel shame about what happened to them. Or to blame themselves. And this can make it hard for them to get help or start to heal.
  • It can also negatively affect how society views survivors. And this can trickle down into the criminal justice system, as well as health and support services.
  • As the Crown Prosecution Service states, 'the crime of rape is commonly misunderstood'. This plays a part in the shocking charging and conviction rates for rape.
  • At Rape Crisis, we work hard to shatter these myths. And help survivors get the support they need and deserve.

Have you experienced rape, child sexual abuse, sexual assault or another form of sexual violence? Or are you feeling confused? Please know that you're not alone. We have lots of information and support to help.

Myth #1

Women who drink or take drugs deserve it if they get raped.

Fact: No one is ever to blame for being raped or sexually assaulted – it doesn't matter what the circumstances were. Raping or sexually assaulting someone is always a crime and 100% of the blame, shame and responsibility for that crime lies with the perpetrator or perpetrators.

Two young women sit at a bar talking. One is sipping from a cocktail.

Myth #2

Women lie about being raped because they want attention or revenge – or regret having had sex with someone.

Fact: False allegations of rape are extremely rare. In fact, most people who are raped or experience another form of sexual violence never tell the police.

A young woman with long black hair sits on a sofa while holding a mug. She has one elbow resting on the back of the sofa as she presses the hand on her forehead.

Myth #3

If she didn’t scream, try to run away or fight back then it wasn't rape.

Fact: It’s really common for people who experience rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse or other types of sexual violence to find they can’t move or speak. This is one of our bodies’ automatic responses to fear and is designed to keep us safe.

It's also one of the reasons why lots of people don't have visible injuries after experiencing rape or another form of sexual violence.

Find out more about fear responses
A woman sits on her bed with a pillow on her knees. Her head rests on the pillow so that we cannot see her face.

Myth #4

If she didn’t say ‘no’ then it wasn't rape.

Fact: Not saying ‘no’ is not the same as someone giving their consent. If someone seems unsure, stays quiet, moves away or doesn’t respond, they are not agreeing to sexual activity.

Find out more about consent
A young woman looks serious as she stands in the sunshine.

Myth #5

It’s not rape if it's your wife or girlfriend.

Fact: Rape is always rape. If someone wants to take part in any kind of sexual activity with another person then they must get their consent. Every. Single. Time. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been married to the other person for 50 years – if the other person doesn’t consent, it’s rape. And it's illegal.

A couple who have just got married sit together holding hands.

Let's shatter rape myths together

Please donate today and help us to tackle misinformation about sexual violence and abuse. We are so grateful for your support.

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Myth #6

Women are ‘asking for it’ if they wear revealing clothes or flirt.

Fact: Women and girls have the right to wear whatever they want and behave however they want without being raped or sexually assaulted. As does everyone. There is never any excuse for rape or sexual assault.

A young woman wearing a black dress stands in a hallway with her back to us.

Myth #7

Once a man gets turned on he can't help himself – he has to have sex.

Fact: There is absolutely no scientific basis in this myth. Men can control themselves, just like women. Rape in any circumstances is a serious crime and there is never any excuse for it.

A young man's hand is seen clasping a young woman's hand in bed.

Myth #8

Women often play ‘hard to get' and say 'no' when they really mean 'yes'.

Fact: Women and girls, just like men and boys, should always be listened to and believed when it comes to sex. Everyone has the right to change their mind at any point during sexual activity and it’s not up to anyone else to decide what someone wants – only they can do that. So, if someone says ‘no’, respect their wishes.

A young woman from the back, walking down the street with a backpack on in the sunshine.

Myth #9

Victims and survivors should act a certain way after being raped.

Fact: Everyone responds differently to rape and other types of sexual violence, and there's no right or wrong way to be or to feel afterwards. It's common for people to feel numb after a traumatic event like rape or sexual assault. And some people don't feel the effects of trauma until a long time after a traumatic event has happened.

Find out more about the impacts of rape
A young women with headphones in lies on a sofa, looking at her laptop.

In England and Wales...

  • 1 in 2rapes against women

    are carried out by their partner or ex-partner

  • 1 in 3adult survivors of rape

    experience it in their own home

  • 1 in 4women

    have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult

    (6.54 million women in total)

Myth #10

If she'd really been raped then it wouldn't have taken her so long to say something.

Fact: For many people, experiencing rape or another form of sexual violence or abuse can be a very difficult thing to talk about – and it might be a long time before they feel able to. This can be for lots of different reasons. They might feel like they'll be judged or blamed or not believed. Or they might be scared of their perpetrator or another person finding out.

An older woman sits at a table with her head in her hands. Her glasses sit on the table in front of her.

Myth #11

People who were sexually abused as children are likely to become abusers themselves.

Fact: Most victims and survivors of child sexual abuse never rape or sexually abuse other people. There is never an excuse for sexual abuse or any other type of sexual violence against anyone – children or adults.

Find out more about child sexual abuse
Two young girls from the back standing outside. One has a yellow backpack on, and the other has a light pink spotty backpack on.

Myth #12

Women shouldn’t go out alone at night if they don’t want to be raped.

Fact: In 86% of rape cases against women, the victim or survivor is raped by someone she knows – and, in 45% of cases, she is raped by a partner or ex-partner. So, if we’re following the ‘shouldn’t go out alone at night’ logic, should we also tell women to stop having relationships with men? Or to never talk to a man again? Of course not. It’s rapists who need to change their behaviour, not women.

A blurred image shows a woman walking alone at night.

Myth #13

Sex workers can't be raped.

Fact: What makes it rape is whether or not someone gave their consent – not what the victim or survivor does for a living. So, if a sex worker didn't give their consent then it was rape.

Find out more about the legal definition of rape
A bedroom with an unmade bed.

Not sure what the difference is between rape and sexual assault?

Find out here

Myth #14

Men of certain backgrounds are more likely to commit sexual violence or abuse than others.

Fact: There is no typical rapist. People who commit sexual violence and abuse come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age and social group.

A blurred photo shows a crowd of men, possibly spectators sitting in the stands at a sporting event.

Myth #15

Men don't get raped.

Fact: Men and boys are raped and sexually assaulted every day in England and Wales – in fact, one in 20 men have experienced rape or sexual assault as an adult. Sexual violence and abuse can have a lasting and serious impact on the lives and wellbeing of men and boys, just as it can for women and girls.

Learn about support for men and boys
An older man sits in a therapy session

Myth #16

Only gay men get raped and only gay men rape men.

Fact: Absolutely anyone can be a victim or survivor of rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse or any other form of sexual violence, including men and boys of all sexual orientations. Rape is about power and control for perpetrators. So, for some perpetrators, it doesn't matter what their victim's gender or sexual orientation is. The important thing to remember is that all victims and survivors should be listened to and believed – and all deserve specialist support.

Two men hold hands as they walk along a path together, through some trees. They are walking away from us so we can only see their backs.

Myth #17

Women don’t commit sexual offences.

Fact: The majority of rapes and sexual assaults are committed by men against women and children. However, women do carry out sexual violence – against other women, as well as men and children. All victims and survivors should be listened to and believed. And 100% of the blame, shame and responsibility always lies with the perpetrator, no matter who they are.

A blurred image shows two unidentifiable women walking away from us down a street.

Get help and support

If you have experienced any kind of sexual assault – whether it was recently or a long time ago – Rape Crisis is here for you. If you choose to contact us, we will listen to you and believe you. And we will never judge.

Find out more about getting help and support


You can contact our free 24/7 Support Line by calling 0808 500 2222 or visiting the website to start an online chat.