No means no. And the absence of a yes is also a no. When it comes to rape, the former is heavily emphasized, but the latter continues to raise questions. Generally, the endurance of a person to have sexual relations is interpreted as a no. What’s going on if it stays still and does not output any resistance? This is something that has been discussed a lot, especially at the media level, but in some situations also at the legal level. For this reason, a team of scientists from the University College London has carried out a study aimed at demonstrating at a neurological level that it is fear that paralyzes these victims. Noel consent.
In their study, published in Nature Human Behaviorgive as an example the case R v Lennox, which took place in Australia in 2018. During the trial, the defense jury asked the victim why she froze during the attack, trying to show that by not opposing, there was no rape, but a consensual relationship. In Spain we are much closer to the example of the packwith which it was also questioned that the victim was opposed to the gang rape.
In order to defend the victims, it is often argued that they freeze for fear of being attacked with more violence. But actually there is something else. That may influence; but, above all, it is his brain the one who takes away their will. It is an involuntary reaction that occurs in other animals when they feel very threatened. But let’s see what it consists of.
When the brain turns off during a rape
Before starting to talk about this study, it is worth considering its limitations, recognized by the authors themselves.
Naturally, a rape it’s a crime, so it cannot be studied in humans. You can see how a person’s brain changes during consensual sexual intercourse. There are plenty of studies that do. But not during a rape.
Therefore, the research has been carried out in animals under threat. Even so, the results are very significant and their authors insist that they should be taken into account. Now, what do those results say?
Basically, they analyze what happens in the brain during a threat. It is known that many animals, including humans, when under threat, enter what is known as fight or flight response. That is, your body prepares to face that danger or run away. The body’s energy is directed above all to the muscles of the extremities, which tense and tingle, heart and respiratory rates increase, the sphincters relax, sweating increases…. All this, when taken to the extreme, is what we humans know as anxiety. There it stops being an evolutionary response and becomes a problem that must be dealt with. But what if the threat is even bigger?
In this case it has been seen that the animals remain petrified. In fact, on some occasions it even seems that they are dead. It is advantageous; Well, for example, it could help them go unnoticed by a predator.
When analyzing neurological research on this type of response, it has been seen that it is due to the fact that neural circuits responsible for voluntary control are blocked over the body. In other words, the brain turns off so they can’t move.
What does all this have to do with sexual assault?
We have already seen that in humans and other animals the responses that lead to anxiety are very similar. For this reason, it would be expected that the response to an extreme threat would also be similar.
In addition, according to the authors of this study in a statement, surveys of rape victims indicate that 70% felt frozen, unable to move or even cry. It is exactly the same thing that happens to other animal species.
Therefore, this neurological explanation should be taken into account in trials. If a rape victim doesn’t move, it’s not because she’s giving her consent. It is because she is so extremely scared that her brain prevents her from moving. It must be horrible enough to feel a terror that petrifies you, as well as having to explain why. Let’s start taking more account of our brain.