A RAPE crisis organisation is campaigning to tackle damaging myths which can have a "devastating" impact on survivors.

Darlington and County Durham's Rape and Sexual Abuse Counselling Centre is launching the two-week campaign today.

Isabel Owens, deputy chief executive, said: "Most people’s ideas about rape are shaped by cultural believes and what they see on TV and in the media. Therefore beliefs about who is raped, why, how and by whom tend to be formed by popular – albeit false cultural beliefs.

“Often these only serve the purpose of shifting the blame from the perpetrators to the survivors. However, we work with and support survivors and hear from them just how traumatic these myths are - not just at the time of their assault – but throughout their lives.”

Ms Owens said myths about rape and who is responsible for it means many victims do not report their attacks to police and lead to survivors blaming themselves.

Currently, only about 15 per cent of rape and sexual violence survivors report the crimes to law enforcement.

Ms Owens added: "Rape is never the survivors fault. What they wore, how much alcohol they had consumed and whether they were able to fight back are irrelevant. Nobody ever suggests a murder victim was ‘asking for it’. Rape is not an act of impulse or uncontrollable passion; it is an intentional act of violence.

“And if a survivor feels guilt, or doesn’t think they will be believed, then they are unlikely to report the crime and we already know that rape is hugely under-reported. In addition, rape myths continue to be perpetuated in all areas of society, and by all ages.

"We should never forget that these are the people who make up our juries and whose views will help to form the decision as to whether a perpetrator is guilty or not.”

The #NotAskingForIt campaign – which will run across RSACC’s Facebook and Twitter platforms – is aimed at challenging people's understanding.

The charity will be using social media to ask people what they think about different scenarios around rape and spread awareness about the reality, seeking to dispel misunderstandings.

Ms Owens said: "“For example, we still face the general belief that most perpetrators are strangers. However, in the last year, of the 759 survivors we have supported, over 82 per cent of the perpetrators were known to them.

“The campaign is not about shaming people, it aims to present the overwhelming facts in the face of centuries of myth-making."

RSACC offers free, safe support to all women over 13 who have experienced any form of sexual abuse at any time in their lives, and has a specialist counselling service, helpline and support for survivors in taking perpetrators to court through an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser Service. The helpline – 0300 222 5730 – operates Monday to Thursday from 10am to 2pm.