Misconceptions about Sexual Offending

Real victims would report rape and sexual assault immediately.

The majority of victims who experience sexual offences delay disclosing and/or reporting or never disclose/report their experiences.

Common reasons include:

  • Shame
  • Confusion, guilt or shock about the offence
  • Fear of the offender and concequences of reporting
  • Protecting an offender they know
  • Fear they will not be believed
  • They may not recognise what they have experienced as a sexual offence or blame themselves for what happened

Real rapes are commited by strangers to the victim.

The majority of rapes are commited by someone known to the victim, often in a familiar residential location.
A common rape myth relates to a belief that victims are often attacked violently by strangers and that this is 'Real Rape'. This is actually very rare, they are often committed by family members, within intimate partner relationships or another known person.

Real rape victims would sustain physical injuries at the time of the offence. Offenders typically use physical force against their victims during sexual offending. Real rape victims would resist and fight off the violent offender.

Most offenders have a prior relationship with the victim and do not need to use significant physical violence to commit their sexual offence(s).
Some studies have found very low rates of injury caused during sexual offending. Offenders typically have power over their victims and groom their victims into compliance over time; this is not the same as consent. 
During the assault, victims may be more likely to freeze and cooperate; this can be a concious response or they may not be able to control it.

Memory of rape should be clear, coherent, detailed, specific and not contain any inconsistencies or omissions.

Following rape tauma, a person may not remember everything and different parts of memory may come back at different times.
Victims of one-off traumatic events typically recall only a few clear details, therefore, many details are often lacking. Where they have been repeatedly raped within a relationship it will be difficult to isolate details of single incidents. Memories are also affected by alcohol and other drugs and previous injuries or traumas.

The rate of false rape allegation is high. Many people lie and fabricate reports of rape and sexual offences.

The rate of false allegations of sexual assault is very low. There is no evidence that many women make vexatious reports of sexual offences.
This myth about false allegations is harmful for society and harmful for victims of sexual offences. It contributes to under-reporting and victims wrongly fear they will be met with disbelief and blame if they report.

Victims affected by alcohol consent to sex but regret it afterwards and allege rape. People who are very drunk are responsible for their own rape. They could have prevented the rape by drinking less. 


The media often focus on date-rape drugs such as Rohypnol, however, alcohol is the most common drug of choice that offenders intentionally use to incapacitate a victim before commiting a sexual offence. 
Many offenders are opportunistic and will take advantage of victims who are already drunk and incapacitated. The law assumes a 'heavily intoxicated' person is incapable of consenting to the act. 

One person's word against another is not enough to convict rape: there needs to be witnesses or more evidence.

Most rapes or other sexual offending occurs away from public view such as in a residence, so victims and offenders are often the only witnesses to the crime(s).
Sexual offences do not require additional eveidence in order to be taken seriously by the police. Judges will instruct juries about how to consider these issues.

'Real rape' victims would break off a relationship with the offender or stay away from them.

When considering that sexual offending is most often a relationship-based crime, it is more obvious that simply avoiding an offender is often not realistic.
Staying connected to an offender may be described as a counter-intuitive response, but it is a common response. Victims often stay in a relationship with their abusers. This may be for a multitude of reasons: fear for the safety of themselves or others such as children, family or pets; feelings of shame and responsibility for their own rape; belief they can change the abuser's behaviour; the reality that they are isolated with no financial support etc. 
Leaving a relationship with an abusive partner is often associated with a heightened risk of violence, including lethal violence. Offenders often build up a relationship of trust, power and fear with the victim, rendering it difficult for victims to simply discontinue a relationship with their abuser after an offence, even if they wish to. 

No one would rape or sexually offend against a person with a disability.

People with disabilities are over-represented as victims of sexual offences and often face many additional barriers to reporting them.
Many offenders will target those with disabilities because they perceive them as being powerless, vulnerable and unable to make accusations or reports that will be taken seriously. 
Case studies show that while some people with mental health issues may make disclosures of sexual offending that appear unusual, investigations have proven them to be genuine. 


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