Setting the Record Straight on 5 Campus Sexual Assault Myths

Posted on 13 November 2015 |

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campus sexual assault mythsMisconceptions about campus sexual assault hurt everyone. In this blog, we will talk about some of the more persistent myths students and others might believe, and then provide the facts to set the record straight.

Myth 1: “She didn’t even fight back. How could that be rape?”

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about sexual assault. If someone doesn’t resist their attacker, then it must have been consensual.

But the reality is much more complicated. There are a variety of reasons someone won’t fight back. For example, the perpetrator might have weapon or threatened to hurt the victim’s family or friends. Also, the person being assaulted could have been drugged.

Or they said no, and the attacker kept going anyway. Maybe the victim froze in fear. All of these are reasons someone wouldn’t fight back. And just because they didn’t fight, doesn’t mean they weren’t assaulted.

Myth 2: “He’s a guy. They can’t be sexually assaulted.”

Anyone can be a victim of campus sexual assault; just like anyone can be a perpetrator – including women. The fact is one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.1 And male college-aged students are 78 percent more likely than non-students to be a victim of rape or sexual assault.2

Myth 3: “She knew him. She even went out on a date with him! How could he have assaulted her?”

The majority of campus sexual assaults are actually committed by someone the victim knows.

According to the National Institute of Justice, “about 85 to 90 percent of sexual assaults reported by college women are perpetrated by someone known to the victim; about half occur on a date.”

Myth 4: “Why should I report my assault to the campus? There’s nothing they can do.”

When Title IX was first enacted in the 1970s, the law stated that students could not be discriminated against on the basis of sex. At the time, this applied mostly to funding for athletics.

But over the years, the Office of Civil Rights, which enforces Title IX laws, expanded it’s guidelines to include sexual harassment and sexual assault as part of the definition of discrimination.3

So there are many things schools can do to support survivors because as part of Title IX, the school is required to respond to every complaint. Know Your IX, a national student and survivor-run campaign to end campus sexual violence, lays out some examples.

For one, some state laws don’t cover same-sex assault or don’t recognize men as victims. This means that for some survivors, their school is the only resource they have for justice and security.

Additionally, schools are able to dedicate resources to survivor support such as counseling services, housing relocation and academic accommodations.

Reporting sexual assault to the school is not a replacement for reporting to the police; however, it’s another option for survivors that helps support their needs during a very difficult time.

Myth 5: “I don’t have to go to the police because I already reported the sexual assault to the college.”

Just like there are certain things only the school can do, there are also certain things only the police can do. And determining criminal liability is something only law enforcement can do.

The National Women’s Law Center, a non-profit organization that advocates for women’s rights through litigation and policy issues states:

“The purpose of a college administrative proceeding is to establish whether a violation of the school’s policies and procedures occurred—not to determine civil or criminal liability. Colleges cannot send students to jail, nor can they find them guilty of a crime or other violation of the law.”

Help Your Students Learn the Facts About Sexual Assault

Ensuring students have accurate information about campus sexual assault empowers survivors to come forward, and it helps to get them the support they need. To inform your students about their rights, learn about our student empower training.


1 National Sexual Violence Resource Center: Statistics About Sexual Violence

2 RAINN: Who are the Victims?

3 OCR: Dear Colleague Letter

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