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IMMEDIATE HELP & SUPPORT

If you need immediate information you can call one of these 24-hour toll-free hotlines.

  • Rape Abuse & Incest National Network
  • 800-656-4673
  • Childhelp USA
  • 800-422-4453
  • National Domestic Violence/Abuse Hotline
  • 800-799-7233

Available in English, Spanish and German, with other languages coming.

Why don’t many people fight or yell when they’re being raped?

Why are memories of sexual assault so often fragmentary and confusing?

Is the brain’s response to attack essentially the same – controlled by the defense/fear circuitry, running on reflexes and habits – during sexual assault, physical assault, and military combat?

The answers have big implications for people who’ve been sexually assaulted, for those who investigate and prosecute such assaults, and for everyone else who knows or works with someone who’s been sexually assaulted.

The answers, it turns out, are the same in every culture. Around the world, the most common responses of people during sexual assaults are basically the same.

Evolution sculpted them into our brains long before we were sophisticated enough to create cultures, long before we began to misunderstand and misjudge sexual assault survivors with culture-based expectations of how women and men “should” respond during assaults and remember them later.

Here I provide answers to those questions with videos, writings, and handouts.

In this video, I explain how alcohol and drugs can contribute to memories that are both incomplete and accurate, and why level of intoxication matters.

Sexual Assault and the Brain Blog

One-Page Handouts

PDF FILES

These handouts help with learning and applying knowledge about sexual assault and the brain. To get the most from them, read my writings and watch my in-depth video (below). See also longer handouts for investigators and victim advocates at the bottom of this page.

Key Information for Investigators, Attorneys, Judges, and Others – Lots of key points packed into one page on (1) common brain-based effects during assaults and (2) “cautions, vulnerabilities, and needs.”

Common Sexual Assault Behaviors: Reflexes & Habits – High-level overview of common – but still commonly misunderstood – reflex and habit behaviors.

How Brain‐Based Behaviors Tend to Unfold Over Time – Useful for thinking about typical sequences. See also my brief video on this handout.

Potential Overlaps of Dissociation with Habit Behaviors and Other Extreme Survival Reflexes – This Venn diagram clarifies how dissociation may or may not overlap with habit behaviors and other extreme survival reflexes.

All Four Handouts in one PDF

Free version of my most popular training, includes embedded videos illustrating brain-based survival reflexes. I start talking about the brain at 9:10, but the beginning is important too, e.g., why empowering and connecting with victims does not bias investigators, adjudicators, etc.

How Reliable Are the Memories of Sexual Assault Victims?

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

If I were permitted to provide my invited expert testimony for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh, these would have been my remarks, which apply to memories of military combat and other traumas too. Also published on my blog (above).

Training Bulletins

PDF Files

These training bulletins include topics not found in my other writings (e.g., how stress and sleep can influence the ability to recall). I wrote them with EVAWI‘s Director of Research and CEO. 

Becoming Trauma-Informed: Learning and Appropriately Applying the Neurobiology of Trauma to Victim Interviews

Important Things to Get Right About the “Neurobiology of Trauma”

Part 1: Benefits of Understanding the Science

Part 2: Victim Responses During Sexual Assault

Part 3: Memory Processes

More

Neurobiology of Sexual Assault: Two-part Webinar Series

EVAWI

In these two 90-minute webinars, I cover the same material as my longest YouTube video (above), but in greater depth on memory issues in part 2. These webinars are available for free in EVAWI’s webinar archive (after a quick registration process, to provide the funding agency with viewing statistics).

Part 1: Experience and Behavior

Part 2: Experience and Memory

In this brief video (under 8 minutes), I answer questions about commonly misunderstood or overlooked brain-based responses during sexual assault, and discuss the implications for investigators.