Fight, flight or freeze: Revisiting the series

Fright 3-D © Sonja Gehrke.jpg


In a historically skeptical society that has become increasingly unphased by news related to rape, sexual assault, violence and domestic violence it’s time we find a better way to communicate.  Maybe science is the way…

If the voices of the victims and survivors themselves aren’t enough to convince those who could help more (through relationships, money and/or other resources), then certainly neurobiology should be able to.

So why the revisit?  The goal of my original “fight, flight or freeze” series was to help shed light and answer the questions that many people have a hard time understanding like:  Why did she just lay thereWhy didn’t he just say noWhy did they keep changing their story?   Why can’t they remember?  Good questions, but there really are reasons including:

Victims/survivors don’t always get to choose…


For decades, advocates have been estimating the number of victims with increasing accuracy each year. The increase is due, in part, to more victims coming forward to report personal acts they’ve endured and acts of violence within their communities. Some reports are compiled and shared by local/state entities such as the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCADSV).

The rise is also due to information collected and disseminated through national channels such as the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).  That Bureau has been able to compile and compare rape and sexual assault victimization data across various streams.  A report released by the BJS some time ago showed that during the period of 1995-2013, the rate of rape and sexual assault was 1.2 times higher for nonstudents (7.6 per 1,000) than for students (6.1 per 1,000).

What we’ve learned through prevalence is that as the community grows smaller, the larger the numbers of assaults and incidents of rape and/or sexual assault – and most acts are not reported.  While the numbers show the magnitude, research and advocates have long been able to:

  1. Give reasons why some victims just can’t leave (what’s at stake), how to leave safely and what one might take if planning to leave
  2. Share words you can actually say to a victim or survivor of sexual, domestic and other types of assault/violence such as I’m sorryit’s not your fault and you are not alone
  3. List at least five ways to end domestic and similar types of violence


Although extremely valuable, data and explanations from advocates don’t seem to be enough. In this technologically-savvy society where information is abundant and available, it’s a surprise we haven’t actively returned to the science behind pain, pleasure, emotions and memories to become more empathetic towards assault victims.  (We shouldn’t need to but we return to science because some people have to be convinced and reminded:  The victim is not the one to blame.)

The original series was a glimpse into the world of flight, flight or freeze.  The reality is that sexual assault and domestic violence still exist so the series is definitely worth revisiting.


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This post is compiled using some of my original content published through the
“Oh What a Fright” 3-D image by © Sonja Gehrke



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