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Trauma Dynamics

Hi Paula here, please look for all of our posts on Family Advocates' Facebook page.

I was asked to share with you one thing that stands out when working with survivors of sexual violence. It is really hard to hear survivor’s question themselves thinking they should have been able to fight back when someone violated them. We teach women and girls to fight the perpetrator off. This is not an easy thing to do and we are letting survivors down when we expect them to do so. A new study confirming that it is 'normal' for victims of sexual assault (female or otherwise) to experience a temporary paralysis.

This Swedish study:

(1), comes from a research pool of nearly 300 women who went to an emergency clinic within one month of a rape or an attempted rape. Almost half of the women experienced extreme paralysis which rendered them catatonic, while 70 per cent said they experienced involuntary paralysis during the attack. 'It really confirms that a significant number of survivors who experience sexual assault do not respond in what we think of as the typical 'fight or flight' pattern; they respond by freezing.'

(2) Many survivors of sexual abuse go into a ‘freeze state’ while the abuse is taking place, as a way of surviving. As we look back on what happened, it is easy to feel a lot of guilt or shame for freezing and not doing more to protect ourselves by fighting back or running away. The nervous system responses of fight, flight and freeze are automatic survival actions. We do not choose them. Therefore, if you have experienced freeze response that is because freezing was the best way your body knew to protect you from the trauma of what was not your fault.

I hope this helps you to understand the dynamics of trauma and our bodies. Please take care of yourselves. If you need support or encouragement, please call 1-800-924-2624, anytime. Thank you.


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