Believing In Myths About Sexual Assault Might Make People Less Likely To Help If They Witness An Attack, Says Incredibly Disheartening Study

"She was asking for it." "A man can't raped anyway." These kinds of myths about sexual assault are more than just ignorant; they're also dangerous — and as a new study shows, they're dangerous in more ways than one: According to recent research, people who subscribe to such myths are less likely to intervene if they witness an attack. It's sobering news, especially considering how persistent these myths are — and it's also proof that we need to put an end to them, once and for all.

The study, which was published in the journal Violence and Gender, collected data from 970 first-year students — 731 men and 239 women — who were surveyed after attending mandatory sessions discussing sexual assault guidelines and how to go about reporting an incident. The students were asked about their stance on sexual assault myths: Myths like the idea that men who are raped are gay because otherwise they would have fought off their attacker, or that women who are raped were asking for it. They were also provided with "Intent to Help Friends" and "Intent to Help Strangers" scale forms, which asked them to rate how likely they would be to intervene should they witness certain situations. 

The results? Well... 

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If what you were expecting was, uh, bad, then you're also spot on: Men were found to have higher rates of acceptance for both male and female rape myths, and overall, those who bought into the male rape myths, regardless of whether they were men or women, were the least likely to intervene in a potentially serious situation. 

While this is super disheartening, it makes sense. If you really believe that men can't be raped, or that the incidences of male rape are incredibly, incredibly rare, then yeah, I guess you'd be like, "Eh, whatever" when faced with someone being sexually assaulted.

But what this study also shows is how damaging the single-narrative, "only women can be victims" line of thinking regarding rape culture can be. And honestly, I cannot, for the life of me, understand why it is so hard to accept that men can also be victims. The data shows it: A 2014 study published in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity found that 43 percent of high school and college age men have reported being the targets of unwanted sex. RAINN reports that one in six men have been through abusive sexual experiences before they reach adulthood. In 2013, the National Crim Victimization survey of 40,000 households discovered that 38 percent of incidents of rape and sexual violence were committed against men.

It can happen to men. It can happen to women (and does, frequently, as the data shows). It can happen to anyone. And all these pervasive myths about sexual assault are not helping anyone.

Being compassionate and understanding is free. It literally costs you zero dollars. And we could all stand to remind ourselves of that more often.

Images: Claire Joines/Bustle; Giphy 

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