“I just froze” campaign launched to fight misconceptions of trauma and rape

Nathanael Williams

Scottish women’s charity raises awareness for survivors and public ignorance about how they react to rape

RAPE CRISIS SCOTLAND (RCS) will today (Tuesday 7 March) launch a new campaign to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about how survivors of rape react to the traumatic experience.

Survivors of rape and sexual assault have welcomed the campaign called ‘I just froze’ which addressed the attitudes people have towards women who are questioned about their reactions when attacked.

Its aim is to push back against a culture of blaming women who are attacked instead of the offenders themselves and it emphasises that freezing is a common and natural response to rape, challenging prevalent beliefs that ‘fight or flight’ are the only valid responses to trauma.

The charity has created a range of creative images and films,voiced by actor Daniela Nardini, to carry the campaign message, which is being funded by the Scottish Government.

Sandy Brindley, national coordinator for RCS, said: “Many of us think that we know how we or other people would respond to rape, but the truth is there is just no knowing. Responses to rape can be so very different to how we would expect or imagine that some people find them hard to believe.

“Survivors of rape often tell us that they just froze, that they couldn’t move, or cry out.  This is a normal response to trauma. We hope that the ‘I just froze’ campaign shows exactly why it’s so important that everyone understands this; because one day someone, maybe a friend, partner or family member, might tell you that they have been raped. Or one day you might be on a jury listening to someone say that they thought they’d fight back, but they just froze.”

RSC also believes that such a campaign is vital in improving public attitudes towards survivors of sexual violence in Scotland.

Many rapes and assaults are not reported straight away or at all because of lack of faith in the willingness and ability of the state to prosecute and the trauma experienced by women who have been raped.

“Many of us think that we know how we or other people would respond to rape, but the truth is there is just no knowing.” Sandy Brindley

Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, supporting the campaign, said: “When I’ve spoken with victims of these types of crime it is clear that each will react and respond in a different way and this is such a crucial campaign to educate us all about how survivors of rape can be better understood and supported to come forward, report their attack and get access to the help they deserve.”

In 2015 and 2016, 1,692 rapes and 117 attempted rapes were reported to the Police Scotland. In the same period, 10,273 ‘general’ sexual offences were reported, an increase of 7 per cent, from the 9,557 sexual offences recorded in 2014.

Charities also expressed horror at the 2014 social attitudes survey which showed that people believe that in certain situations women are at least partly to blame if they are raped. Only 58 per cent said that a woman who wore revealing clothing on a night out was ‘not at all to blame’ for being raped, and 60 per cent said the same of a woman who was very drunk. Around a quarter agreed that ‘women often lie about being raped’ and nearly 37 per cent agreed that ‘rape results from men being unable to control their need for sex’.

 Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC, said: “There are myths about sexual offences, and it is our duty as prosecutors to challenge them.

“Justice can only be served when victims of crime have the confidence to come forward and to speak up.  I want anyone who has been the victim of rape, or indeed of any sexual offence, to know that prosecutors understand the wide variety of natural responses of victims to such offences. No one who has been the victim of such a crime should be deterred from reporting it.”

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues written about the article above you can contact Rape Crisis Scotland and additionally the Scottish Women’s aid helpine for advice. Support can also be found on the National Helpline number 0800 027 1234.

Picture courtesy of Rape Crisis Scotland

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