Myths about surviving rape

Myths about the survivor

Immediate reaction - people tend to believe that immediately after a rape the survivor will be visibly distraught, but will also be able to clearly and coherently recount what has happened. While any sexual assault is a highly traumatic experience and this can be the case, many women are so shocked and traumatised that they actually become unable to speak or clearly recall the incident, or they can become very numb and emotionless when describing it. This is a documented effect of the traumatic impact of rape on the survivor.

Identifying their experience - most people will expect the survivor to immediately identify their assault as rape, hence the myth that making a report or speaking out months or years after the incident means the report is false. In fact, in some cases the myths surrounding rape and the controlling influence of the perpetrator can mean that women do not want to 'name' their experiences as rape for months or even years, and even if they do they may not be ready to speak about it.

Surviving rape - these myths can work in both directions - sometimes survivors are expected to be 'ready' to talk about the incident or 'move on' when this is not a realistic or safe option for them. There can also be an expectation that survivors will be more visibly upset or traumatised than they are, and disbelief if this is not the case. Sexual violence happens in the context of women's lives and all survivors react in different ways - we respect this and work with the survivor at the point they are at.

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