For the longest time I berated myself because I didn't feel like I fought back hard enough when I was raped. If I look back, in truth I did fight back. I tried to get away, but he was bigger than me. He was taller than me and he was stronger than me. There was nothing I could do so I stopped fighting. I stopped fighting and just froze.
This wasn't me saying it was okay. This wasn't me "giving up" as I had thought for so long. No, this was me doing what I had to do to survive and protect myself.
We've all heard so many times about the fight or flight response. That's what I thought I had to do. I didn't really fight back if I didn't fight or flight. What most people don't know, what I didn't know, is that the fight or flight response has a third option: freeze.
In situations where you can't fight the attacker off or when you can't run away, the only option you're left with is to freeze. When it showed that fighting back would make my attack worse I froze. This wasn't me giving in. This was me surviving. When you freeze your mind takes you away from the situation you are in. You dissociate as a survival technique to get through whatever is happening.
The world needs to remember that the freeze response is totally motmal amd should be an acceptable response to trauma. When I was questioned by the police one of the first questions he asked me was "Did you fight back?" "Did you scream?" "How hard did you fight back?" "Did you try to run?"
I understand the police need to know these things to get the full picture, but he made me feel like I didn't do enough to prevent my attack.
This was not true for me and is not true for any other victim of sexual assault. It is never the victims fault no matter how much she fought back. Freezing is a normal brain response to trauma and for me was safer than fighting back.
So next time you hear "fight or flight" remember the third 'f', freeze.