Why sexual assault survivors forget details

Why sexual assault survivors forget details

Imagine that you are on a highway and while you are driving and out of nowhere the car on the
other side of the road loses its brakes and comes swerving towards you. Time may seem to
slow down and you become hyper aware that you can turn your car right to avoid collision with
the incoming car. As you continue driving narrowly avoiding a road accident, can you still
remember the face of the other car’s driver? Can you remember the number of the car’s plate?
What’s the song playing on the radio at the time? At near death, everything seems vivid yet
some details of the vents are fogged.

This analogy is what can happen during a sexual assault. Most survivors tend to have a vivid
memory of their sexual assault experience but when questioned by the police or by sexual
assault lawyers to describe the face of the perpetrator, or even the date or time of the incident,
their memory fails them.

This has a lot to do with our fear responses. When in danger, the part of our brain, the prefrontal
cortex, that is responsible for our “executive functions”, like remembering the time of the day or
the color of the shirt your friend is wearing, shuts down. We became less likely to fully
remember important details during duress. When fear kicks in we will be hyper aware of our
surroundings, the sound that can help us with our survival.

At some point during the sexual assault, fear will envelope the survivors and their memory about
some details of the assault will be less likely to register fully in their brain. This is a totally
normal human response to trauma and this will not invalidate what has happened.

Should a survivor opt to go on a legal route and prosecute their perpetrator, they can expect
lapses in their memories about what happened. It is highly advised to seek assistance from
emphatic sexual assault attorneys that will not only make it just another sexual assault case but
will treat it with care and with passion.

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