Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Daily Vidette Rape Myth Of The Month

Sexual assault myth of the month
Gail Trimpe-Morrow, M.S., L.P.C., Coordinator, Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services

Myth: Most rapes or sexual assaults are committed by strangers.Fact: Over 80 percent of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. On the ISU campus over 85 percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance.

The most common perception of a sexual predator is the "stranger lurking in the dark." As children, we are all cautioned about "stranger danger" and learn about "good touches and bad touches." We are warned not to walk alone at night, to be wary of strangers and to stick to well-lit paths. These safeguards, though good advice, provide us with a false sense of safety and reinforce the idea that if we are cautious enough we can prevent bad things from happening.

There is no doubt we can reduce the risk of violence, but prevention lies in the hands of those who commit such acts. We exercise caution with the unkempt stranger, but we don't exercise the same caution when interacting or partying with acquaintances.

If the number of acquaintance rapes is so high, why do we continue to visualize the rapist as a stranger? The "myth" of the stranger rapist is perpetuated by the media - we see the stranger rapist scenario on TV and in the movies, and we are more likely to read about a stranger rape in the newspaper or hear it on the news. It is easier to think about the stranger as the perpetrator of violence. It is very frightening to think about people we know being capable of sexual violence.

The reality is familiar people and places are more dangerous. The greatest risk of a sexual assault is from someone you know - someone you met at a party, a friend, a date, a partner - not a stranger. Sexual assaults occurring on-campus are most likely to occur in the residence halls.

Although the incidence of acquaintance rape is high, there are ways to decrease the risk. These strategies apply to both men and women in the context of any relationship or encounter.

Sex without consent is rape. Make sure you have sober consent for any sexual activity. Consent cannot be given when drunk. If you choose to use alcohol, know your limit and stick to it. Risk for an unwanted sexual experience is increased with the excessive use of alcohol.

Go out in groups and return in groups; do not leave friends behind or allow them to wander off with someone they just met. If you see someone putting themselves at risk or making a poor choice - say something, actively intervene or find someone who will. Do not wait for others to act. It is likely others are having the same thoughts and concerns as you.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of an unwanted sexual experience, talk to someone. Ignoring it will not make it go away. Help is free and confidential. Contact the Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services program in Student Counseling Services at 438-7948 or 438-3566, or visit the website at

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