Rape only happens to young, attractive women
While it is true that about 80% of rape victims are under the age of 30, and that 9 out of 10 rape victims are female (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 2009), rape is not exclusively limited to this population. In 2014, victims of reported rape ranged from 93-year-olds to infants as young as a few weeks. Anyone can be raped, including men, the elderly, people with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) populations, and people from every racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic group. While rape affects all segments of the population, research has revealed a systemic bias in the judicial processing of sex crimes, with physically attractive victims being viewed as more credible and, therefore, less responsible, compared to physically unattractive victims. This will be discussed in greater detail later.
Rape only happens to "bad" women
The belief that we live in a fair world where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people (Just world hypothesis) is prevalent (Stromwall,
Alfredsson, & Landstrom, 2013). Victims of crime are, therefore, responsible for their own fate. This belief pins the blame on rape victims for not adhering to society's rules (Belknap, 2015) and suggests that only certain kinds of women are vulnerable to rape and sexual assault. Women seen as promiscuous, having prior sexual experiences, drinking alcohol, or engaging in activities at inappropriate places and/ or times are labeled as deviant. Sex workers (or prostitutes) are an example.
This myth is most likely perpetuated by evidence that certain groups are more vulnerable to rape and sexual assault. Female street prostitutes experience high rates of violence. In one study, it was found that about 40% of Chicago street prostitutes had been raped at some point, and 22% had been raped more than ten times (Raphael & Shapiro, 2002). Because street prostitutes violate gender norms by selling sex, they are viewed as "loose," "immoral," or "of low moral character." Because of these labels, the violence perpetrated against them has become normalized. Some male customers (or "Johns") believe raping a prostitute does not constitute rape (Oselin & Blasyak, 2013).
Even women who do not explicitly violate rules and norms through risky behaviors, but are perceived as "other" because of their minority or socioeconomic status, can be seen as "bad girls." The reasons are linked to the legacies of racism, colonialism, and imperialism. In the antebellum South, sexual victimization of enslaved women was a common method for replenishing the slave workforce. This socially-approved sexual abuse led to Black female rape victims' portrayal as loose and immoral sexual temptresses who led men astray, rather than as victims of sex abuse (Collins, 2000). These portrayals equate women of color with "bad." Race, therefore, becomes another means for victim blaming.