Sexual violence is a form of trauma. Trauma is what happens when we experience something that is so scary that we think that we might die. Most of us think we would fight back if we experienced sexual violence, but actually the most common thing to do is freeze.
Experiencing trauma also impacts our brains in the long run. This video explains how.
All of this means that someone who has experienced sexual violence might not remember clearly what happened to them, and they might experience flashbacks or nightmares. A flashback or nightmare feels like re-experiencing what happened and can come with sounds, images and physical sensations. Sometimes the person might appear to space out. This is called dissociation.
Understanding more about trauma and the brain can help us support a friend or family member who has experienced sexual violence. It means we can be more compassionate, patient and understanding.