Believe Survivors

How the body responds to assault and shock may or may not look like this.

This is not the look of consent.

And Animal Magnetism isn’t what you think…

The other day I read the FB post of a friend who had been raped. She described it in detail, how the situation leading up to the assault stunned her, and has affected her after.

Here’s my perspective, as a hypnotherapist, on why one might not come forth for a long time, or at all.

There can be a lot of shame, guilt, feelings of “What the hell happened?” and “What was my part in it? How am I to blame?”

Why do people blame themselves?

An assault ends up being a life-changing act of learning. As responsible adults, we strive to be “responsible” but there are cases when we are not responsible—when we learned something we did not choose.

If you’re now thinking, “Learning?” please keep reading.

Learning happens (sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly) to get us to behave in a certain way subconsciously /  automatically / physically. It bypasses the analytical / conscious / decision-making mind. As adults we can choose.  We can learn what we want. We study, take classes, perhaps, and then do certain things (see list below) to plant it in our subconscious mind, our body. When we’ve learned, we can do a skill automatically.

Choosing and Doing are mostly mutually exclusive activities. When we are choosing we are not doing. When we are doing we are not choosing. You cannot choose and do at the same time—at least not very well. (read more here….)  During an assault, the mind is desperately trying to choose an escape.

Usually, we choose, we learn, then we do. In an assault or other traumatic events, we are trapped in an unfortunate learning situation.

How we learn

Here are a few examples of how we learn:

  • repetition
  • listening to an authority figure
  • strong emotion (anger, frustration,…), or
  • excitement, enthusiasm, motivation!

Did that list just take you back to grammar school?

There are more learning techniques than those listed above…  if you want more, just message or text me…. I know them because they are the same techniques as hypnosis!

And there’s another method, not on that list: Shock.

Shock Hypnosis is, basically, the technique you see in YouTube videos of street hypnosis. Some slick guy (or gal) goes into a jewelry shop and confuses the clerk so much that they end up walking out the store with jewelry that they hadn’t paid for (or hadn’t paid enough for). The poor clerk is left just scratching their head. Most (if not all) stage hypnotists employ this technique because it’s so fast. It’s called Shock Hypnosis—the same phenomenon that happens when a cat chases a mouse and then the mouse freezes.

This shock technique also goes by the name of “Animal magnetism” (mesmerism…)—in this case, such a misnomer.

Here’s what happens:

When a situation is so out of control, confusing, un-choosable, we cannot make sense of it. Like that mouse, the human body just cannot respond. The situation is so confusing that it is shocking. We literally become shocked. Traumatized. Paralyzed. It is a physical shock to the nervous system and our energy is diverted from our muscles and our senses…leaving us as a victim, unable to respond appropriately, incapacitated. Often the thinking mind can’t respond intelligently, either.

Some examples:

  • Stage fright: You’ve rehearsed your speech, you’re up in front of an audience, and then all of a sudden you go into a state of shock. You become catatonic and you can’t even talk (you may even wet yourself)… or,
  • Police shooting: A police officer is telling someone, “Stop and put your hands up,” while aiming a gun at them. But the person is so shocked and afraid—because they strongly suspect what’s going to happen next is that they’re going to get shot—that they cannot respond correctly. Whether or not they can hear the officer’s words—and there is a good chance they can’t!—they don’t have any control over their muscles. They are not thinking clearly. They could be paralyzed, or have so much sensory overload that they just do what comes automatic—such as reaching for their cell phone….
  • Rape, assault: Same as above. You may struggle, or not. But not struggling, or even seeming to comply is NOT an act of consent! It is an action (inaction) of self-preservation.

From descriptions by assault situations, it is obvious that the assailants have the advantage of employing at least some, if not all, of the techniques of learning / hypnosis: Repetition, progression, authority figure, emotion, motivation (to survive!), and especially SHOCK (the technique that works the fastest!). All these characteristics contribute to the hypnosis aspect of the situation. I don’t want to equate all the good uses of hypnosis, or learning, with assault and rape. What I am saying is that when you are in this situation, in this state, the victim is not in control and is not response able.

When other people say, “Well, you should have don’t this or that to prevent it,” they just don’t understand that in that situation you often can’t. You are in a state of shock, trying to make sense of it. And the confusion and fear have most likely induced some kind of paralysis in your body. Some (like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford) find a moment when they are able to get up and run— though the body and mind are still in shock, traumatized— many are not as lucky. Can they make sense and talk about it shortly after? No. It is difficult, if not impossible, to talk about what our rational mind cannot make sense of.

Assault shocks the body when it is disengaged from the conscious / analytical / verbal part of the mind.

Fight, flight, freeze, fidget, fret, …. and other ‘f’ words, can be the body’s reaction to shock—to an unchosen situation. And in this state, you cannot choose your body’s response—it’s automatic, situation dependent. Your nervous system has taken over. It is not “consenting”—it is surviving. It is not “making sense” of the nonsense—it is surviving.

Anyone who has been in an assault situation should not feel they did the wrong thing, nor that they had any consenting part in it, nor that they are not strong of body, mind, or morals. They should be supported and encouraged.

2 thoughts on “Believe Survivors

    1. annazumwalt says:

      Thank you, Kathy. The pieces started fitting in place… and writing it out I realized why women (or any victim) don’t come forth sooner, or at all! They can’t! Thank you for commenting 💓


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