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Victim Blaming Paralleled to the Neurobiology of Trauma

Within the past few years, sexual assault has become too common across various ages and gender. As a result, it is important to increase educational efforts within society on the issues of victim blaming paralleled to the neurobiology of trauma.

First, while it may seem interchangeable, the word choice between "vicitim" and "survivor" must be clarified from the perspective of an individual within the criminal justice field, perhaps with a background as an attorney. Working with victims of crime leads to the word choice of victim based on familiarity and frequency. In other terms, the term victim is classified as a legal term. However, whether an individual has experienced or been impacted by crime, either term can be used appropriately depending upon preferences.

Second, the definition of rape must be clarified as well. The first definition of rape came about in the common law or a body of laws based on court decisions rather than codes or statutes. The common law definition of rape is the "carnal knowledge of a woman by a man not her husband without that woman's husbands or fathers consent and over teh utmost resistance of a woman." Colonists brought the common law to America, and critical points of that definition continue to haunt society today. As stated in the law, women are the only people that can legally be raped, and force is a requirement. Therefore a woman does not have the sole capacity to consent.

In the common law, rape was considered a crime against men's property rather than a crime against autonomous women. Daughters were valuable for making advantageous marriages. So, if a daughter were to be raped, this scenario would devalue the father's property. If a father gives his daughter to another man, money and goods are exchanged alongside the women. This reality is connected to the backdrop in our laws and norms today within society and culture.

In other terms, practices along the common law are still widely normalized and accepted. Specifically, in Maryland, married women can be threatened with force by their husbands to compel sexual intercourse, and marital rape is not entirely illegal in some states. In a cultural context, a man will still ask for a father's permission to marry their daughter. Similarly, when marriage ceremonies occur, the woman arrives at the end of the aisle from her father, walking her down and giving her away. Another continued norm that perpetuates in society today is that if a man is harassing a woman, they will typically stop if the woman says they have a boyfriend. This idea continues the notion that women belong to men.

With this information, victim blaming is a protective method that counts on women to act in preventative measures. Some topics that lead to victim-blaming questions include walking alone, taking a drink from a stranger, becoming too intoxicated, and acting wild or promiscuous. Society tells us that a woman who was raped was not taught the rules by her parents, and her actions led her to that situation. As a result, victim-blaming serves an individual goal of keeping women safe and allows society to police women's behaviors and excuse poor behavior by men.

Despite the general heading of women under the realm of rape, there is a stratification of who has more privilege based on sexual/ gender identity and race. Thus, I will transition from victim blaming to how a victim's actions result from pure biology. Using an example of how a rabbit freezes when they feel danger from another animal, the neurobiology of trauma is boiled down to the fact that human brain chemistry circulates fear signals to induce survival. Since the fear circuitry is the first part of the brain to develop, signals overwhelm the prefrontal cortex, which includes weighing the cost and benefits of your actions. As a result, to survive, the body initiates freezing, fleeing, or fighting. This biological choice is out of one's control. Women and men who are raped are expected to stop the action from happening. However, failing to fight back may be a biological response that the victim cannot control or a decision to preserve their life.


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