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Combating sexual assault myths through education

  • Published
  • By Maj. Scott Crum
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator
We all have heard the myth that our country's first president chopped down a cherry tree and when asked about the event by his father, commented, "I cannot tell a lie, Father, I did cut down that cherry tree." Or, for more contemporary times, you may have heard the myth that football players who appear on the cover of the John Madden football videogame will be injured or play poorly during the football season. While society may have no problem believing in these myths, there are other myths out there that are not humorous or intriguing, and are myths we don't take as seriously as we should.

Sexual Assault myths, like the topic itself, are very uncomfortable to talk about. However, in order to better understand and help to educate our Airmen, I think it is vital we look at some of these myths and help set the story straight.

Myth: Only certain types of people get sexually assaulted, so it could never happen to me. For example, some people ask to be sexually assaulted by the way they dress or act.
Reality: First, anyone can be sexually assaulted. Women and men from a very young to the elderly, people of all ethnicities, socioeconomic levels, and all sexual orientations are sexually assaulted every day. Second, no one "asks" to be sexually assaulted, regardless of what the person is wearing or how they are behaving.

Myth: Most rapists are strangers.
Reality: Based on the Air Force's Gallup Study of 2010, 81percent of female Airmen and 67 percentofpercent of male Airmen reported their assailant was a friend, peer or acquaintance. On the contrary, only 8 percent of females and 16 percent of males said the assailant was a stranger. This myth in particular can devastate a military unit where trust in your fellow Airmen is essential to any successful mission.

Myth: If the victim didn't fight or try to run away or there was no weapon or injuries, sexual assault did not occur.
Reality: The number one weapon used in sexual sssaults today is not a knife or gun, but the socially acceptable vice known as alcohol. More than 80 percent of all sexual assaults within the military involve alcohol. Threats of violence and intimidation are weapons as well, and don't forget the "fight, flight, or freeze" concept. While everyone thinks they would fight or run away if an assault occurs, victims are often paralyzed by fear and freeze in response to a sexual assault attack. They do this to survive, and to avoid further injury or even death.

These are just a few of the numerous misconceptions about sexual assault that some people still view as reality. While some historical or pop culture myths continue to gain in popularity over the years, others like those discussed above need to be removed from our societal conscious. Only through continued education, care and concern for our fellow Airmen can we combat and stamp these myths out.