Myths and Facts

Disclaimer: the term gender-based violence is often used throughout this section in place of sexual violence as we aim to recognize the myriad of ways in which violence is experienced by students and employees on campus, acknowledging that it moves beyond sexual violence to include other forms of gendered violence (Courage to Act, 2019).

MYTH: Sexual violence doesn't affect me.

FACT: Sexual violence affects us all. We know that one in three women, and one in six men will be affected by sexual violence in their lifetime; and we also know that at least 20% of women pursuing their post-secondary education will experience sexual violence during their time in college or university. In 2019, "71% of students at Canadian post-secondary schools witnessed or experienced unwanted [sexual]behaviours (Burczycka, 2020)".

Furthermore, it is a known fact that some groups of people are affected at higher rates than others:

  • Indigenous women experience sexual violence at three times the rate of non-Indigenous women.
  • At least one in five trans, genderqueer and gender non-conforming post-secondary students have experienced sexual assault.
  • Women with disability experience sexual violence at approximately three times the frequency of abled women. Students experiencing disability were twice as likely to have experienced sexual assault and unwanted sexual behaviour in the post-secondary setting in 2019.
  • Immigrant women's experiences of intimate partner violence may be more likely to be influenced by economic dependence, language barriers, and isolation from community supports.

Burczycka, Marta (2020), Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics. Students' experiences of unwanted sexualized behaviours and sexual assault at postsecondary schools in the Canadian provinces, 2019. Retrieved fromStatistics Canada

Canadian Women’s Foundation (2016) Fact Sheet on Sexual Assault and Sexualized Violence. Retrieved from Canadian Women’s Foundation Fact Sheet

Students Society of McGill University (2017) Our Turn: A National, Student-Led Action Plan to End Campus Sexual Violence. Retrieved from Students' Society of McGill University/

MYTH: Men can't be sexually assaulted.

FACT: Men can, and do, experience all forms of gendered violence. We know that men may be less likely to report their experiences to police due to a number of factors; including shame, fear of the person who has harmed them, a lack of confidence in the legal system or a misconception that what they experienced was not a reportable crime, and a sense that their experiences would not be believed or taken seriously.

McDonald, S. and Tijerino, A (2013) Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Assault: Their Experiences.

MYTH: Sexual assault is most often committed by strangers.

FACT: Most cases of gendered violence occur in private spaces (a residence or private home), and is committed by someone known to the survivor. The majority of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance, dating partner or spouse.

Source: Province of Ontario (2019) Dispelling the myths about sexual assault. Retrieved online from Province of Ontario website.

MYTH: It wasn't rape, so it must not be sexual violence.

FACT: Sexual violence describes any unwanted contact of a sexual nature initiated without consent; can include, but is not limited to rape. Some forms of gendered violence involve no physical contact at all; including stalking, voyeurism, indecent exposure and sexual harassment. Survivors can experience the harmful impacts of all forms of gender-based violence, regardless of whether or not physical contact was a factor.

See the Definitions page on this website, and Mohawk College’s Sexual Assault and Sexualized Violence Policy for more information about different forms of sexual violence and your options for accessing information and support. If you're unsure about an experience and have questions, we can help.
Contact Counselling [at] (Counselling Services) or the consent [at] (Student Rights and Responsibilities Office) for more information.

MYTH: They didn't tell me to stop, so it's OK that I kept going.

FACT: Silence does not equal consent. It is your responsibility to ensure that your partner is voluntarily and clearly agreeing to sexual activity.
Some tips:

  • If a person is too intoxicated or afraid to say no; there is no consent.
  • If a person is asleep or unconscious; there is no consent.
  • If a person is threatened, coerced, or manipulated; there is no consent.
  • Consent can be revoked by either party, at any time during sexual activity.
  • Consent needs to be obtained in any relationship; whether you're meeting for the first time, have been dating or hooking up for awhile, or are married.
  • Consent cannot be obtained in a relationship in which one person holds a position of power or influence over another person.


Check out Mohawk College’s Sexual Assault and Sexualized Violence Policy for more information about consent.

Source:Salvino, Caitlin, Kelsey Gilchrist, and Jade Cooligan-Pang. ‘OurTurn: A National Action Plan to End Campus Sexual Violence’. Montreal, QC: Student’s Society of McGill University, October 2017. Retrieved online from Students for Consent Culture website.

MYTH: The survivor doesn't have any injuries, isn't visibly upset, and/or doesn't remember details; so the incident must not have been that serious.

FACT: Despite what we see in movies and on television, there is no one ‘right’, ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ way for a person to react to an experience of gender-based violence. Sometimes there are injuries and a visible emotional response, and sometimes a survivor demonstrates no outward or visible signs that they have been affected by gender-based violence. Many survivors attempt to minimize or forget the details of the trauma as a way of coping with the distress, confusion, shock and embarrassment that they might be feeling. The ways in which a survivor responds are not a reflection of the seriousness or legitimacy of their experiences.

Experiences of gender-based violence often impact the formation and recall of associated memories; and can impair emotion-processing, and language skills, meaning that survivors may find it difficult to describe their experience in a logical sequence.

Regardless of how a survivor appears when sharing their story, they deserve to be believed and supported.

Source: End Violence Against Women International (2020) Important Things to Get Right About the "Neurobiology of Trauma". Retrieved online from EVAWI website.

MYTH: A person's outfit can signify consent.

FACT: A person’s outfit doesn't mean that they were ‘asking for it,’ clothing choice is a form of human expression that everyone has the right to. Often, clothing choice is used as a way of placing blame on the survivor for what happened - which is a false and damaging narrative.