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Sexual violence:
myths versus the facts

Myth Fact
Sexual assault can’t happen to me or anyone I know. Sexual assault can and does happen to anyone. People of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are survivors  of sexual assault. Young women, Aboriginal women and women with disabilities are at greater risk of experiencing sexual assault.
Sexual assault is most often committed by strangers. Someone known to the survivor, including acquaintances, dating partners, and common-law or married partners, commit approximately 82 per cent of sexual assaults.1
Sexual assault is most likely to happen outside in dark, dangerous places. The majority of sexual assaults happen in a private home or apartment.
If a person who was sexually assaulted doesn’t report to the police, it wasn’t sexual assault. Just because a survivor  doesn’t report the assault doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Fewer than one in 10  survivors  report the crime to the police.2
It’s not a big deal to have sex with someone while they are drunk, stoned or passed out. If someone is unconscious or incapable of consenting due to the use of alcohol or drugs, they cannot legally give consent. Without consent, it is sexual assault.
If the person who was sexually assaulted didn’t scream or fight back, it probably wasn’t sexual assault. When someone is sexually assaulted, they may become paralyzed with fear and be unable to fight back. They may be fearful that if they struggle, the perpetrator will become more violent. If this person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may be incapacitated or unable to resist.
If a person who experienced sexual assault isn’t crying or visibly upset, it probably wasn’t a serious sexual assault. Everyone responds to the trauma of sexual assault differently. Some people may cry or they may be calm. They may be silent or very angry. One’s behaviour is not an indicator of their experience. It is important not to judge a person by how they respond to a sexual assault.
If a person does not have obvious physical injuries, like cuts or bruises, they probably were not sexually assaulted. Lack of physical injury does not mean that a person wasn’t sexually assaulted. An offender may use threats, weapons, or other coercive actions that do not leave physical marks. The person who was sexually assaulted may have been unconscious or been otherwise incapacitated.
If it really happened, the person would be able to easily recount all the facts in the proper order. Shock, fear, embarrassment and distress can all impair memory. Many survivors attempt to minimize or forget the details of the assault as a way of coping with trauma. Memory loss is common when alcohol and/or drugs are involved.
Individuals lie and make up stories about being sexually assaulted. The number of false reports for sexual assault is very low, consistent with the number of false reports for other crimes in Canada. Sexual assault carries such a stigma that many individuals prefer not to report.
It wasn’t rape, so it wasn’t sexual violence. Any unwanted sexual contact is considered to be sexual violence. A survivor can be severely affected by all forms of sexual violence, including unwanted fondling, rubbing, kissing, or other sexual acts. Many forms of sexual violence involve no physical contact, such as stalking or distributing intimate visual recordings. All of these acts are serious and can be damaging.
Individuals  with disabilities don’t get sexually assaulted. Individuals  with disabilities are at a high risk of experiencing sexual violence or assault. Those who live with activity limitations are over two times more likely to be survivors  of sexual assault than those who are able- bodied.3


Ontario Women’s Directorate
1 Brennan & Taylor-Butts, Sexual Assault, 13.
2 Ibid., 8.
3 Statistics Canada, Criminal Victimization and Health: A Profile of Victimizations Among Persons with Activity Limitations or Other Health Problems (Ottawa: 2010), 8.


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