Why Victims Freeze During Sexual Assault or Harassment
Unfortunately, survivors of sexual abuse and harassment are subjected to victim-blaming and often asked, “Why didn't you fight back or run away?” Those who have not experienced this type of assault or harassment may think that running away or fighting back is easy to do when in reality, it can be difficult for victims trying to process what is happening to them.
Read on to learn more about why victims will often have a “freeze” response during sexual assault or harassment.
The Three Types of Freezing Responses
When survivors talk about why they did not fight back or flee, they will often describe that they felt “frozen” and didn't know what to do. Understanding why a “freeze response” is so common among victims can educate the public to understand better what victims go through during sexual assault and harassment. Here are the three types of responses a sexual assault victim may display:
When a victim detects an attack of sexual assault or severe sexual harassment, the brain and body will instantly enter into a different state. For example, suppose a person experiences unwanted touching from a boss or a “pushy” person on a date. In that case, stress can escalate, and the brain circuits go into defense by detecting an unexpected attack and triggering a “frozen” response. The person becomes physically “frozen.” A detection freeze response can happen at any time, such as when a person first senses something is wrong or not until the second or third time the victim's resistance is ignored. Typically, detection freezing lasts for a few seconds.
While the detection freeze response means that all physical movement has stopped, the victim will stop all behaviors with a “network reset.” According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a “network reset” happens when the brain prepares to receive new and potentially life-saving information and then generates options to respond to threats.
Unlike detection freezing that lasts for a few seconds, shocked freezing happens longer, and more brain responses are involved. Many people who describe their sexual assault or severe harassment will say they were “in shock” or their mind “went blank” or, “I froze.” Shocked freezing often comes right after the detection freeze response and a continuation of the “network reset.”
When You Need Help Speaking Out Against Your Perpetrator
Speaking out about sexual assault and harassment isn't easy. When blame is often placed upon the victim, it can be an intimidating experience. Many survivors are unsure where to turn for help. Know that you are not alone, and it's not your fault. At , our attorneys are passionate about advocating for the rights of sexual assault survivors and victims of sexual harassment.
Our legal team is here to guide and support you when going through a difficult time. We are here to defend your rights, hold your perpetrators accountable for their heinous actions, and help you receive the compensation you deserve.
Contact ustoday at (833) 456-3529 to learn your rights.