As you may know from reading my past entries, I used to be a shopgirl. It was, beyond any doubt, the happiest thing I’ve ever done professionally. I miss it dearly but am grateful that it continues on with owners who love as much as I did.
When I first opened my shop, Disney’s Frozen had just come out. I had the soundtrack streaming throughout the store all day, for what seemed like every day, for a long time. One of my favorite vendors made Elsa and Anna necklaces that mama bears would line up well before the shop would open just to snag one.
Anyway, that really has nothing to do with anything other than Anne (my EMDR guru) has suggested for many sessions now that I write about something complicated. I told her I didn’t want to, how would I even start, what would I say? She said, “I’m not sure, Jen (yes, she is one of maybe one person in my life who I allow to call me Jen) but I know you’ll find a way.” So here I am, not at all finding a way, and using a Disney movie as a starting point.
Okay, here goes. Did you know that it is not uncommon for a victim of sexual abuse within the dynamic of intimate partner violence to freeze? You don’t fight, you don’t scream, you don’t run out of the room and you tend to not tell anyone. Simply put, you freeze. And whatever vile act is about to occur or is in progress continues. In all of its pain and humiliation and fear, the act plays out.
When a victim freezes, she is left feeling as if she is responsible and to blame because she didn’t say no. What I have learned from Anne is that not saying no does not mean that you were not a victim of assault.
When an abuser inflicts pain, he is fully aware of what he is doing. He knows that you are hurting, he knows that you are in pain and he knows that he is humiliating you. He knows and he continues to satisfy whatever sadistic need or compulsion that is alive within him all the same.
I am here to tell you something very important. Freezing is saying no. Freezing is fighting back. Freezing is crying out for help. You freeze because your flight or fight has kicked in. And while you are neither in fight or in flight, you are trying desperately to endure what is happening to you.
Freezing is not consent. Freezing is what you did to survive what is, by all counts and acknowledged by any educated official of the law, sexual assault. I know that you think sometimes that you allowed this to happen. You did not. You were sold a dream and given a nightmare. How could you have known?
Your abuser has already set the stage for this to occur. He has idealized you, showered you with more kindness than you’ve ever experienced and made you feel like you have found pure and true love. But then, over time and nearly imperceptibly, all manner of abuse begins.
More than anything else, I want to talk about this because I don’t want one more woman to feel like she is to blame for the vast humiliation and deep pain that was purposefully inflicted under the guise of love. Love that controls, undermines, distrusts and destroys. Love that is a lie.