What if I did not fight back during the sexual assault or rape? What if I froze instead?

Freezing is a common response to being raped or sexually assaulted. Having this response is not something that a survivor should be ashamed of. We all think of “fight or flight,” but the human brain reacts to trauma in other ways. One way is to freeze. Freezing is a typical neurological (brain-based) response to detecting danger—think deer in the headlights. Fear circuitry in the brain can interfere with our ability to process and respond, leaving us frozen in place. If you did not “fight back” because you froze, or were afraid, or had been threatened, what your attacker did still counts as sexual assault or rape. For instance, some survivors do not fight back because the attacker threatened them, maybe even with a weapon. Other survivors freeze because the sexual assault was so shocking—like when the attacker was a trusted friend, doctor, or massage therapist. In either case, the survivor has a claim for rape or sexual assault. Traditional notions of rape “as seen on TV” show attackers holding victims down and desperate attempts to fight back by the survivor, but in the real world survivors regularly freeze in that moment instead. You are not alone, and you still have a claim for rape or sexual assault.

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