Myths, Facts and Statistics

Myths, Facts and Statistics

We look at the myths, facts and statistics surrounding rape and sexual violence. Rape myths underpin sexual violence by diminishing the responsibility of the perpetrator(s) whilst putting responsibility on the victim/survivor. Rape myths can make it hard for victims/survivors to seek support and have far reaching consequences, for example influencing the way rape cases are handled by jury’s in the criminal justice system.

By challenging rape myths and spreading factual information and statistics we are changing these misconceptions and ultimately changing the way victims/survivors are responded to when making a disclosure.



• 20% of women (1 in 5) and 4% of men will experience sexual violence in their life-time

• Only 10-15% of sexual offences are reported to the police

• Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men experience rape, attempted rape or sexual assault in England and Wales every year. That's 11 sexual offences every hour.

• In 2018 less than 1 in 65 reports of rape (1.5%) resulted in a charge or a summons.

• 40% of adults who are raped tell no one about it. 72% of adults who were abused during childhood tell no-one at the time of the abuse

• Only 10% of rapists are strangers. 90% of perpetrators are known, and often trusted, by the victim prior to the offence.

• Only 3% of rapes and sexual assaults are false allegations

• Most perpetrators of sexual violence are male and most victims are female

• 21% of girls and 11% of boys experience childhood sexual abuse

• There has been one conviction against Female Genital Mutilation in the UK since it was made illegal in 1985

• 40% of women and 18% of men had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that 75% of employees who spoke out against it faced some form of retaliation

• Stop Street Harassment February 2018 found that 81% of women and 43% of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault

• Modern Slavery charity Unseen found that women and girls account for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% of other sectors of forced labour


• In 2018 2,007 sexual offences were reported to police in Devon and Torbay

• Only between 10% -15% of sexual offences are reported to the police meaning in 2018 in Devon and Torbay the actual number of incidence is likely to be over 20,000

• The above means that an estimated 20,000 rapes and sexual assaults go unreported in Devon and Torbay each year

• 48% of DRCSAS service users are seeking support following childhood sexual abuse

• Between 2017 and 2018 DRCSAS provided support by phone, email or in person to 1200 people. This number is expected to continue to grow year on year.


MYTH: Rapists are strangers
FACT: Around 90% of rapes are committed by known people, often by someone who the survivor previously trusted or even loved. Rapists can be friends, colleagues, clients, neighbours, family, partners or exes.

MYTH: Women and girls sometimes 'play hard to get' & say 'no' when they really mean 'yes'
FACT: Everyone has the legal right to say 'no' to sex & to change their mind about having sex at any point of sexual contact; if the other person doesn't stop it is sexual assault or rape

MYTH: If two people have had sex with each other before they don't need consent
FACT: If a person is in a relationship with someone or has had sex with them before, this does not mean that they cannot be sexually assaulted or raped by that person

MYTH: Women are most likely to be raped outside, in dark alleyways late at night. So should not go out alone
FACT: 90% of women are raped in their homes, in their work places and other settings where they have previously felt safe

MYTH: Someone who's willingly drunk lots of alcohol or taken drugs shouldn't complain if they end up being raped or sexually assaulted, they were asking for it and not ‘being safe’.
FACT: Having sex with a person who is incapacitated through alcohol or drugs is rape. No-one asks or deserves to be raped or sexually assaulted.

MYTH: Women often lie about being raped because they regret having sex with someone or out of spite or for attention
FACT: False allegations of rape are very rare. The vast majority of survivors choose not to report to the police. One significant reason for this is the fear of not being believed. Allegations of rape that are false are exactly the same as that of any other crime, 3%.

MYTH: People with disabilities are at low risk for sexual assault
FACT: People with disabilities are victims of sexual assault twice as much as people without disabilities

MYTH: Only young, 'attractive' women and girls, who flirt and wear 'revealing' clothes, are raped
FACT: People of all ages, appearances, of all classes, cultures, abilities, genders, sexuality, races & religions are raped. What someone was wearing or how they behave is irrelevant

MYTH: Once a man is sexually aroused he cannot help himself; he has to have sex
FACT: Men can control their urges to have sex just as women can; Rape is an act of violence and control, not sexual gratification. It cannot be explained away and there are no excuses.

MYTH: People 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: People who rape are sexually frustrated/do not have the opportunity to have sex with a willing partner.
FACT: People who rape are as likely as any other person to be cohabiting or be in a significant relationship. More than one in five women are raped by their partners or their husbands.

MYTH: Only gay men and boys are sexually abused
FACT: Heterosexual, gay & bisexual males are equally likely to be sexually abused. Being sexually abused has nothing to do with your current or future sexual orientation

MYTH: Sex Workers cannot be victims of sexual violence, abuse or rape
FACT: Sex workers have the same rights with regards to consent as anyone else: the transactions they negotiate with clients are for consensual activities, not rape

MYTH: There are certain ways ‘real’ victims behave after sexual violence
FACT: Everyone responds differently to sexual violence trauma – some show lots of emotion, some show no emotions at all

MYTH: There is nothing I can do to prevent sexual violence
FACT: There are many ways you can help prevent sexual violence including talking to friends and family about the statistics and facts, reporting sexist hate crime, challenging sexism, volunteering, fund-raise for Devon Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Services, join feminist groups or attend events like Reclaim the Night

MYTH: Men who rape or sexually assault are mentally ill or monsters.
FACT: Studies have indicated that as few as 5% of men are psychotic at the time of their crimes. Few convicted rapists are referred for psychiatric treatment.

MYTH: The man was drunk / on drugs / depressed / under stress / wasn't himself.
FACT: Men use a variety of excuses to justify the act of rape. There is never an excuse.

MYTH: Women cannot rape.
FACT: The majority of sexual assaults are committed by men against women and children. Nonetheless, a small number of women do perpetrate sexual violence. Often women and children who've been sexually assaulted or abused by women, for example within their family or a same-sex relationship, are particularly fearful that they will not be believed, that their experiences won't be taken seriously or won't be considered 'as bad' as being raped by a man. This can make it difficult for these survivors to access services or justice.

In law, only a man can commit the offence of Rape [Sec 1 (1) SOA 2003], as this is defined as penetration with a penis. Non-consensual penetration with something other than a penis is defined as Sexual Assault by Penetration. For those who've experienced sexual violence that involved penetration by something other than a penis, whoever the perpetrator was, these legal definitions can feel restrictive, and as if their experience is not considered as serious.