TRAUMA RESPONSES: ON F.R.E.E.Z.I.N.G. Day 3. (4/16).

TRAUMA RESPONSES: ON F.R.E.E.Z.I.N.G. Day 3. (4/16).

For a few days now, I've been fixated on trauma responses as part of the campaign against gender-based violence for the United Nations Women #16daysofactivism. The reason is simple, I want to highlight the impact of trauma on women who suffer gender-based violence, in hopes everyone will join in the fight against it. We can no longer excuse violence against women, treating it as an afterthought because the aftermath is life-threatening. You already know I'm no expert but I'll continue to write from a place of personal experience and research to make sure everyone receives a well-rounded education on why we need to end violence against women.

So, typically, our nervous system responds in times of threats with a flight, fight, fawn, or freeze response. It wasn’t until recently, I discovered several articles on freezing even though I had responded with it. I just always assumed there was something wrong with me and I harbored shame for not fighting back. I still feel its sting when people ask survivors "Why didn’t you fight back?", "Why didn’t you tell anyone?", "Why didn’t you yell for help?". Well, because I couldn’t no matter how hard I wanted to. It wasn’t like I planned to not confide in anyone, it just happened. It was an involuntary physiological change in my body, a response at that moment. The abuse started with a touch. I had gone over to his place to serve him food and because I was sent to seek his help for the difficulty I was having with maths. It hurt like hell when he touched my growing breasts and yet, I sat there on the red rug saying nothing. I endured that pain, sat still until he had enough. For every subsequent touch, I did nothing. I only avoided being sent to his room but if I was there, I didn’t fight back. The best I could do was make facial expressions of disgust and pain which didn’t deter him. Instead, it made him talk, even more, explaining why what he was doing was normal and necessary. I don’t remember how long all of these lasted but he got tired of just touching my breasts. Soon, he’ll take my hand and put it on his penis. Since I didn’t know what to do, he jerked off with one hand on my breast and the other with my hand on his penis. Sometimes, he’ll lay me on himself with my body rubbing the bulge in his trousers. He would joke about how " this" gesturing to his penis wouldn’t fit into me and we may just have to try to see. I still did nothing. I didn’t talk often but I could stand up for myself to adults. I wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything until I knew Pastor Ayo. I was numb during every ritual. I remember one night, I had a cold so strong it triggered my asthma. I was taken to him and he prayed for me in the presence of my mother then asked her to leave me with him. When she left, he put his finger inside my vagina still praying. He anointed my body vigorously, including my breasts. Everything he did was carefully thought out and this realization made me so helpless.

We're often in need of perfect abuse stories that involve fighting back an abuser but there aren't so many of those. I don't know a single survivor who fought off their abuser. And increasing studies have shown that freezing is the most common response of all four responses. About 70% of female rape survivors don't fight back and it doesn't equal consent. I was a child when I was forced to experience the ugliness of abuse. I was 8 and yet, I still question if I wanted it because of all the misinformation out there. In a recent study at the Emergency Clinic for Rape Victims in Stockholm, reports revealed that the majority of female rape survivors didn't fight back or yell for help. Instead, they experienced what is called "tonic immobility", a kind of temporary paralysis in which individuals can't move or speak. Freezing is activated when we're convinced there's no possibility of escaping the danger. The safest option is to lay low until the danger passes. It's not the victim's fault and there's nothing they could have done differently. When no one was there to protect me, my body did what it needed to. It protected me the best way it knew how to. There's no guilt or shame here and I didn't let it happen. What happened to me should never have happened.

We need to get to a point where it doesn't matter what the victim was wearing, when they chose to speak up, or if they named their abuser or not. It shouldn't matter if they cried and called for help or stood still while they were abused. I'm urging you today to hold space for all the women who didn't fight back. You don't have to understand it to believe them. You just have to listen.

How have you been campaigning against gender-based violence? Let me know at isurvivetrauma@gmail.com
.
.
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

Isaiah 9:2 NLT

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store