An important factor in explaining the high incidence of rape in our society is the preva­lence of misconceptions about this crime. False beliefs concerning rape, rapists, and rape victims abound (Heath et al., 2011; McMahon & Farmer, 2011). Many people believe that roughing up a woman is acceptable, that many women are sexually aroused by such activity, and that it is impossible to rape a healthy woman against her will (Gilbert et al., 1991; Malamuth et al., 1980). Research indicates that acceptance and endorsement of rape myths increase men’s proclivity to commit rape (Bohner et al., 2006; Clarke & Stermac, 2011; Edwards et al., 2011). The effect of such rape myths is often "to deny and justify male sexual aggression against women" (Lonsway & Fitzger­ald, 1994, p. 133). Another frequent effect is to place the blame on the victim. Many victims believe that the rape was basically their fault. Even when they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, a pervasive sense of personal guilt often remains. The following are some of the most common false beliefs about rape:

1. False belief: “Women cant be raped if they really don’t want to be" The belief that women can always resist a rape attempt is false, for several reasons. First, men are usually physically larger and stronger than women. Second, female gender-role conditioning often trains a woman to be compliant and submis­sive. Such conditioning can limit the options a woman believes she has in resisting rape. Third, in many rapes, the rapist chooses the time and place. He has the element of surprise on his side. The fear and intimidation a woman usually experiences when attacked work to the assailant’s advantage. His use of weapons, threats, or physical force further coerces her compliance.

2. False belief: “Women say no when they mean yes" Some rapists have distorted perceptions of their interactions with the women they rape—before, during, and even after the assault. They believe that women want to be coerced into sexual activity, even to the extent of being sexually abused (Muehlenhard & Rodgers, 1998). These distorted beliefs help the rapist justify his behavior: His act is not rape but, rather, "normal" sex play. Afterward, he may feel little or no guilt about his behavior because, in his own mind, it was not rape.

3. False belief: “Many women ‘cry rape.’” False accusations of rape are uncommon, and they are even less frequently carried as far as prosecution. Nevertheless, false allegations of rape are sometimes made. The FBI estimates that fewer than 1 in 10 rape accusations is shown to be false (Gross, 2008). People may be motivated to fabricate a rape allegation by a need to create a "cover story" (e. g., a reason for becoming pregnant or contracting an STI), a desire for revenge or retribution directed toward the alleged rapist, an overwhelming need for attention, or an attempt to extort money from the accused (Gross, 2008). However, given the difficulties that exist in reporting and prosecuting a rape, few women (or men) could successfully proceed with an unfounded rape case.

4. False belief “All women want to be raped" That some women have rape fantasies is sometimes used to support the idea that women want to be sexually assaulted. However, it is important to understand the distinction between an erotic fantasy and a conscious desire to be harmed. In a fantasy a person retains control. A fantasy carries no threat of physical harm or death; a rape does.

False belief: “Rapists are ‘obviously’ mentally ill" The mistaken idea that a potential rapist somehow "looks the part" is also prevalent. "This rape myth is particularly dangerous because potential victims may feel that they can identify a rapist (the crazed stranger) or that they are safe with someone they know" (Cowan, 2000, p. 809). As we discuss later, most rapes are committed by people who are not men­tally ill and who are known to the victim.

False belief “The male sex drive is so high that men often cannot control their sexual urges" The problem with this myth is that it shifts the responsibility from the perpetrator to the victim (Cowan, 2000).Women are seen as either the precipitator of the rape ("She should not have worn that dress") or as hav­ing been careless or naive ("What did she think would happen if she went back to his apartment with him?").