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THREAD on #SexualViolence:

A woman does not need to fight back or resist in order to prove that she did not consent to unwanted sex. (Canadian sexual assault law does not require proof of resistance to demonstrate a lack of consent.) Nevertheless, in popular imagination
women are often expected to resist in order to prove that they really were “real” victims of sexual assault. This is one of the enduring #RapeMyths, that a “true” victim of sexual assault will fight back or scream and yell, and if she didn’t she must have consented to sex.
This mistaken idea simply fails to understand typical responses to sexual threat, coercion, intrusion and/or fear. Too often, sexual assault victims are asked, “Why didn’t you just fight back, or scream, or struggle, or run away?”
Sexual assault victims who had a freeze response during an assault may also experience much higher levels of self-blame (i.e., "Why did I just lie there?”). These apparently passive responses of some victims of sexual assault may be perplexing to those who don’t understand
the neurobiology of trauma or gender socialization. In fact, the brain’s defense circuitry often causes human beings to freeze initially in the face of danger.

This is a normal response to threat. It’s the brain’s way of priming us for the next steps in reflexive action.
We have all been caught off guard by an unsettling and disturbing situation with someone. Now imagine that same experience with a person of greater power, a situation that also instills fear and danger and a sense of a looming threat
combined with a sense of your own vulnerability and
powerlessness. People who are used to a sense of self-efficacy and personal power and agency find it difficult to
imagine such circumstances.

But women in intimate situations with men who they believe are trustworthy
– exactly the situations where research has documented that most sexual assaults take place – may feel disempowered because they are destabilized by the unexpected betrayal, or
cognitively constricted because of altered thinking capacity or physically restricted due to
neurobiological responses. These complex reactions are often a hallmark of the context.

The general public, the criminal justice system, even victims themselves often misunderstand neurobiological-based responses to threat and to traumatic events.
Victims cannot explain many of the responses they experienced, nor do they understand their own coping and reflexes.

Sexual assault victims often find these reactions extremely frightening and confusing and they often blame themselves for these responses.

The self-blame and lack of information about these natural brain-based responses keep many victims from coming forward to report their sexual assault experiences to police or to get support services.
Many police also do not understand these responses and they may respond verbally or non-verbally (for example, through body language) in a manner that communicates disbelief, as
a result undermining their investigation.
In court, victims’ credibility is often undermined when
lawyers inaccurately characterize, question, and challenge these seemingly counterintuitive behaviors.
Read the entire paper here:

Impact of Trauma on Adult Sexual Assault Victims: What the Criminal Justice System Needs to Know by Lori Haskell, Melanie Randall :: SSRN

#SexualAssault #SexualTrauma #RapeMyths

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