Anti-Sexual Harassment: Myths and Facts

Myth 1:

Sexual harassment is harmless to the victim.


Sexual harassment causes significant psychological, physical and economic harm. Psychological and physical consequences include depression, helplessness and decreased work and study performance. Economic consequences include job loss or dropping out.

Myth 2:

It's not big deal if a person is harassed, it's all done in good fun.


Sexual harassment is abusive. It is not done in good fun - it is done to intimidate and hurt others. It is also an inappropriate and unacceptable way of controlling others through degradation and intimidation. Sexual harassment affects us all.

Myth 3:

There is a profile of a typical harasser.


Harassers can be of any age, gender, race and sexual orientation. They are found in all types of occupations, at all organisational levels.

Myth 4:

Perpetrators are monsters or strangers.


Sometimes, but not all the time. While many people will never be perpetrators (and many are less likely than others to be perpetrators), sexual harassment does not have one face.

Myth 5:

Victims are in some way to blame for being harassed ('What were you wearing?' 'What were you doing there?' 'Were you drinking?').


The harasser is always responsible for having committed the harassment, regardless of the victim's appearance or behaviour – the victim is not responsible for the harassment.

Myth 6:

Only women are sexually harassed.


Both men and women may be targets or perpetrators of sexual harassment. Many more women than men are harassed. Male victims rarely seek help because of embarrassment and fear that they will not be taken seriously.

Myth 7:

Older people are not considered sexually attractive by others, so they don't experience sexual harassment. 


Sexual harassment is unrelated to physical attractiveness or sexual desire. It is used to coerce, bully and intimidate.

Myth 8:

People with disabilities are not sexual, so they can't be sexually harassed or be harassers.


Despite societal attitudes and stereotypes about people with disabilities, they can be victims, or perpetrators. Some people (for example those who are disempowered or disabled) are at greater risk of being sexually harassed.

Myth 9:

Straight people do not harass gay people.


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning and asexual (LGBTIQA+) people have been targets of harassment by other people because of myths and stereotypes born of ignorance.

Myth 10:

Real rape victims lay charges with the police.


Rape victims rarely find the courage and time to face the disciplinary, police and legal systems. Furthermore, these systems are usually not victim-friendly.

Myth 11:

If you fight your attacker when being sexually assaulted, you are playing hard to get. If you don't fight back, it means you wanted it.


There is no 'proper' way to respond to sexual assault or rape. There are no specific marks to prove that you are a victim or not.

Myth 12:

Some people can't be raped, they can only be taken. If you are dating someone or married to them, forced sex with them is not rape.


Without consent, it is rape. It doesn't matter who the victim is, or who the perpetrator is.


Click on the link to download the Anti-Sexual Harassment Myths and Facts.



Published by Ansa Heyl

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2022. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal

To contact the University during the COVID-19 lockdown, please send an email to [email protected]

Click here for frequently asked questions for first year UP students

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences