When someone’s sense of safety is compromised, fear may trigger the body’s flight, fight, freeze response. This is a neurobiological response to trauma which people do not have control over. A fight response is rare. During a situation of extreme threat, the brain gets flooded with stress hormones which can impair a person’s ability to think clearly and rationally. A freeze response is much more likely.3
Even if someone is highly skilled in self-defence, when experiencing a traumatic event like sexual violence they may not have access to the part of their brain that is responsible for logic, problem solving, planning, conscious thought, and language – the neo-cortex.
Freezing can feel confusing. It can leave people feeling like the abuse or assault was their fault. Those who experience sexual violence are never to blame. The person who chose to use sexual violence against them is fully responsible for their actions.
Check out Her Brain Chose for Her for more information on the neurobiology of trauma.