December 19, 2021
If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
Many people have heard of the fight or flight response, but fewer have heard of the freeze response. And for many people, that just seems like a fancy word for doing nothing – but the freeze response is much, much more than inaction. It’s your brain’s most desperate attempt to survive in the face of overwhelming or overpowering danger.
Many victims of sexual assault freeze at the moment or they comply, smile, or appease their abuser – then later they beat themselves up for it.
Victims may say to themselves things like:
“It’s my fault.”
“I should have known better.”
“I shouldn’t have been drinking.”
“I should’ve said no.”
“I should’ve fought back.”
We usually experience fear when we sense we are in danger. When our brains alert our bodies to the presence of danger, our bodies respond automatically.
Freezing is not giving consent, it is an instinctive survival response. Animals often freeze to avoid fights and potential further harm, or to ‘play dead’ and so avoid being seen and eaten by predators.
Without an explanation, it may be easy to think “why?, why didn’t I fight?”
The truth is, you did. Freezing is fighting, to survive. You survived.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, there is help.
You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
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