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40 dangerous myths about dating apps, sex and rape that must be challenged

New guidance released by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) details 40 dangerous myths and stereotypes that must not be allowed to influence charging decisions in rape cases. 

There is a crisis in the UK that has been taking lives and leaving survivors desperate for relief with little chance of accessing the justice they deserve. Conviction rates for rape are now so low, it is as if sexual violence has effectively been decriminalised.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has received heavy criticism for the lack of perpetrators being found guilty in courts for sexual assault and rape. The latest statistics, released in July, found that just 1.4 % of all reported cases resulted in a successful prosecution.

There are many reasons why so few rapists are being found guilty. For example, there have been accusations the CPS has quietly changed its policy on how rape cases are chosen to go to court, an issue the Centre for Women’s Justice and other women’s groups have sought to bring a legal action against them for.

Another is the fact that many harmful myths about rape are still readily believed by prosecutors, defence lawyers and jurors, most of which flip the blame from the perpetrator to the victim and muddy the understanding of clear and enthusiastically given consent.

In an attempt to counter misleading narratives, the CPS has released a list of more than 39 myths, updated to include newer stereotypes born in the digital age of dating apps, sexting and revenge porn. 

40 of the biggest myths about women, sex, dating apps and rape 

1. Rape is a crime of passion

2. When it comes to sex, men have a point of no return

3. Young men do not deserve to be convicted as they have their whole lives ahead of them/ have good character references

4. He was satisfying demands for BDSM/choking/ aggressive sex. This is not rape

5. Only gay men rape other men

6. Rape is always violent, or involves physical force

7. Rape occurs between strangers in dark alleys

8. Prostitutes/sex workers cannot be raped

9. You cannot be raped by your husband or partner

10. The victim had previously consented to sex with the accused a number of times so s/he must have consented

11. If your culture condones, or is perceived to condone, marital rape, underage “sex”, or forced marriage, then you should not be upset about it/it does not matter as much/it’s more of a grey area

12. Sexual abuse at the hands of a perpetrator which took place when the victim was a child has no bearing on the issue of consent if the same parties go onto engage in sexual activity as adults

13. The victim provoked rape and automatically provided consent by their dress/flirtatious behaviour

14. If you send sexual images or messages prior to meeting someone, then having sex is inevitable

15. If you voluntarily attend a someone’s house after a date or night out, you obviously want sex

16. If you meet men online or though hook-up apps you want sex and should be ready to offer sex

17. If you drink alcohol or use drugs then you have made yourself vulnerable to being raped and you bear some of the responsibility

18. If you have lots of sex, including with different people, then you are promiscuous/ “deserve what you get”/are not harmed by rape

19. If someone has truly been raped then they would not seek, or want, sex soon afterwards

20. You can tell if someone has ‘really’ been raped by how they act afterwards

21. A ‘real’ rape victim is visibly distressed when describing what happened to them

22. A ‘real’ rape victim wouldn’t freeze when attacked, they would fight back

23. It would not be possible for someone who has been raped to carry on with their normal life – go to work, take children to school etc

24. If the victim didn’t scream, fight, or get injured then it wasn’t rape

25. If the victim didn’t complain to the police immediately it wasn’t rape

26. If you don’t say “no”, it wasn’t rape

27. Only young/attractive people get raped

28. Strong/independent/powerful/older people don’t get raped

29. The victim’s race/religion/background is responsible for the rape

30. A real victim would be able to provide a clear and coherent account of being raped

31. Inconsistencies in accounts provided by a victim mean they lack credibility as a witness

32. Where a victim has consumed alcohol or drugs prior to an incident s/he will be an unreliable witness as their evidence won’t be accurate

33. False allegations are common and women cry rape when they regret having sex or want to seek revenge

34. Other complaints of rape which have not resulted in successful prosecution outcomes mean the victim lacks all credibility as a witness

35. Previous withdrawals of complaints, or previous reluctance to co-operate with a prosecution, means the victim lacks credibility as a witness

36. Where the victim has previous convictions s/he lacks credibility as a witness

37. The victim has previous convictions or has told untruths about other matters and therefore cannot be relied upon to tell the truth about rape

38. Where the victim has a learning disability or mental health condition s/he lacks credibility as a witness

39. If someone displayed signs of sexual arousal during abuse, they wanted and/or enjoyed it.

40. Gay men who attend sex parties and/or take drugs are asking to be raped

The full list and explanations as to why these statements are false can be found here

Alongside these statements, prosecutors have also been given details as to how trauma can impact the memories of victims and other issues.

The new guidance, which comes into effect on 1 November and is subject to a three-month consultation, has been welcomed by women’s groups.

Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales said: “Myths and stereotypes not only prevent the vast majority of people impacted by these serious crimes from pursuing criminal justice, they also contribute to unacceptably low charging, prosecution and conviction rates, as well as too often compounding survivors’ trauma and impeding their healing. This is why we were pleased to provide specialist insight and input into the development of this important new draft guidance from the CPS.”

However, many believe it will take more than a list to overhaul the crisis of low conviction rates for sexual violence.

Ellie Butt, head of policy and public affairs at national domestic abuse charity Refuge said: “The CPS has rightly been scrutinised as rape convictions have fallen to a record low. This is one positive step forward to address that, but much more needs to be done in order to reverse the huge declines in prosecutions over recent years.”

If you or anyone you know needs help and support, you can call the Rape Crisis national helpline on 0808 802 9999 (open 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm daily). You can also find your nearest centre here or visit the website for more information.

Details on how to report a rape to the police can be found at met.police.uk

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