- It takes females on average 12-years to ever disclose being sexually abused in childhood, for males it takes 22-years.
- Females report the first in-depth discussion, on average, 18-years after the sexual abuse, and the first helpful in-depth discussion 20-years the abuse. For males, the first in-depth discussion is after 22-years, and the first helpful in-depth discussion is after 28-years.
- Only 1 in 6 victims/survivors ever report sexual violence to the Police (Crime Survey for England & Wales 2020)
Why does it take so long for victims/survivors of sexual violence to disclose the abuse and seek help?
One of the main reasons for this situation is the existence of many common myths about sexual violence that cause shame, guilt, and self-blame making it very difficult for survivors to talk to anyone or get help.
These myths can also affect how survivors are treated by family and friends, support services and the wider society. Misinformation about male rape and sexual violence means that men may feel too much shame to come forward. Men might feel the attack means they are not a ‘real man’ or be concerned that the sexual assault might be linked to their sexuality. At Safeline we offer specialist support for male survivors of sexual violence.
Safeline believes early identification and support for victims and survivors is important to help minimize the long-term consequences of sexual violence and so it works hard to dispel these myths, and help victims and survivors get the support they need and want.
Common myths about sexual violence
Myth: If someone gets really drunk, it’s their own fault if they end up getting raped. They should have kept themselves safe.
Fact: People have the right to drink alcohol without getting assaulted. Having sex with someone who is very drunk, drugged or unconscious is rape – and it is always the rapist’s fault. Find out more about consent.
Myth: Women often lie about rape because they regret having sex with someone, or because they want attention.
Fact: Stories in the media can give the impression that women often lie about sexual violence. In fact, false allegations of rape are very rare. Only 1 in 6 victims who have been raped or experienced sexual violence ever tell the police.
Myth: Men can’t be sexually abused.
Fact: Abusers do not discriminate – it can happen to any gender, age, race, class, or sexual identity.
Myth: If someone didn’t scream or try to fight their attacker off, then it wasn’t rape.
Fact: Most people have heard of the ‘fight or flight’ response but not many people hear about ‘freeze’. There are many reasons why someone might not scream or struggle. In fact, many people find that they cannot move or speak at all, this is a very common reaction. Some abusers also use manipulation or threats to intimidate or control the other person. No matter whether or not someone ‘fights back’, if they didn’t freely consent to sex then it is rape.
Myth: If you are in a relationship with someone, it’s always OK to have sex with them.
Fact: Everyone has the right to say ‘no’ to any type of sexual activity at any time, including with their partner. Consent must be given and received freely every time. Rape and sexual violence in a relationship is illegal.
This excellent video makes consent as simple to understand as a cup of tea:
Myth: Only gay men and boys are sexually abused.
Fact: Rape is about power, control and violence. Heterosexual, gay and bisexual men and people who identify as nonbinary or trans are equally likely to be sexually abused. Being sexually abused has nothing to do with your current or future sexual or gender identity .
Myth: People who were sexually abused as children are likely to become abusers themselves.
Fact: The vast majority of people who were sexually abused as children never rape or sexually abuse other people. This is a dangerous myth that is sometimes used to excuse the behaviour of people who do sexually abuse children or others. There is never any excuse for sexual violence against children or adults.
Myth: Women shouldn’t go out alone at night as they are likely to get raped.
Fact: Only one in 10 of rapes are committed by ‘strangers’. The rest are committed by someone the survivor knows, such as a friend, neighbour, colleague, partner, or family member. People are raped in their homes, their workplaces, and other settings where they previously felt safe. The risk of rape by a stranger shouldn’t be used as an excuse to restrict what women can do. Glosswitch wrote in 2015: A woman can only make herself vulnerable if others have already learned to see her as potential prey.
Myth: Sexual abuse makes you gay.
Fact: Sometimes survivors question whether the sexual abuse has had an impact on their sexual orientation. You may worry that you were abused because you were gay, or that the abuse ‘made’ you gay. In our experience, the majority of men sexually abused by other men in childhood identify as heterosexual in adult life. What research there is points to sexual abuse having no significant effect on adult sexual orientation. However, being a survivor can leave you uncomfortable or unsure about your sexual identity.
Myth: Women provoke men to rape them by wearing revealing clothes or flirting.
Fact: It doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing, or how she is behaving, if she doesn’t consent to sex, that is rape. Only the rapist is ever responsible for rape.
Myth: Once a man is sexually aroused, he can’t help himself; he has to have sex.
Fact: Men can control their urges to have sex just as women can. No-one needs to rape someone for sexual satisfaction. Rape is an act of violence and control. It can’t be explained away and there are no excuses.
Myth: When it comes to sex, women and girls give out mixed signals. They sometimes ‘play hard to get’ and say ‘no’ when they really mean ‘yes’.
Fact: Everyone has the legal right to say ‘no’ to sex and to change their mind at any point of sexual contact. If the other person doesn’t stop, they are committing sexual assault or rape. When it comes to sex, we must check in with our partners, respect their wishes, and believe what they tell us about what they do and don’t want. No means No.
Myth: Men of certain races and backgrounds are more likely to commit sexual violence.
Fact: There is no typical rapist. People who commit sexual violence come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age and social group.
Myth: Women don’t commit sexual offences.
Fact: The majority of sexual assaults and rapes are committed by men against women and children. However, women do perpetrate sexual violence against other women, men, and children. Often people who’ve been sexually assaulted or abused by a woman worry they won’t be believed or their experiences won’t be considered ‘as bad’. This can make it difficult for these survivors to access services or justice.