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Understanding your mind and body's response

For some victims and survivors, it can be really helpful to understand why they're feeling the way they do. Or to work out why they responded to rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse or other sexual violence in a way that doesn't seem to make much sense to them.

If that's you, we hope this information can help.

Want to talk it through with us?

At Rape Crisis, we always listen and believe. And we never judge.

If you'd like to talk to us about what you're feeling or what happened, you can phone our National Helpline or start an online conversation on our Live Chat messaging service.

Find out more
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The Five Fs

Were you unable to move or speak when you were raped or sexually assaulted?

That's really common and was likely an automatic fear response.

We hear about 'fight or flight' a lot when looking at how people respond to scary situations or traumatic events like rape or other sexual violence.

However, 'fight' and 'flight' are just two of the body's five fear responses. There's also 'freeze', 'flop' and 'friend'.

These responses are automatic and not something you can control.

Find out more
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Please remember

If you didn't fight back, run away or say something when you experienced rape or another form of sexual violence, it doesn't mean you're to blame.

100% of the blame and shame lies with the person or people who carried it out.

Trauma responses

For many victims and survivors, what happened to them was a traumatic event. In other words, an event that was very stressful, scary or upsetting.

However, not everyone's mind and body responds to trauma in the same way. Some people experience the effects of trauma soon after the traumatic event; others don't experience them until a long time after.

Common responses include flashbacks, feeling anxious or 'on edge', sleep problems, dissociation and avoiding certain places or things that remind a victim or survivor of the traumatic event – to name just a few.

Find out more
An older woman looks directly at the camera with a sad expression.