Myths about perpetrators

Myths about who could be a perpetrator keep women from being able to understand and identify what has happened to them. In the popular imagination rapists and abusers are often characterised as some or all of the following: a stranger, mentally ill, a 'monster', unable to get sex anywhere else, 'creepy' and not socially capable. While in any given case some of these maybe true, the evidence shows that they are generally a controlling and misleading stereotype.

The Stranger: While some rape is perpetrated by strangers, estimates show that approximately 90% of rapes are perpetrated by someone known to the victim. This may be an acquaintance, family member or friend, and over half of all rapes are perpetrated by partners or ex partners.

The idea that rape by someone known is less damaging, especially if there has been a previous sexual relationship, is false. Rape in these circumstances destroys the relationship and the survivors' trust. Just because someone has consented to sex before does not give any person the right to sexually assault them, and it does not make this less traumatic when it happens.

The 'monster': the idea that men who rape are somehow so deviant or mentally ill that they exist outside society and can't be known to us serves to 'other' perpetrators and reinforces the stranger rape myth. While rape is an extremely violent criminal act, evidence shows that it can be perpetrated by men across all parts of society.

The idea that men rape because they can't get the sex they want anywhere else is also false. Studies looking at perpetrators show that they are often in a sexual relationship at the time of the rape. Rape may be sexualised, but it is a violent assertion of power, not an attempt to satisfy sexual needs.

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