Home > Projects > Preventing Secondary Victimization by Educating Systems about Neurobiology of Trauma

Too often, rape victims and other victims of trauma are re-traumatized by those from whom they seek help. Recent studies on the neurobiology of trauma have helped explain why victim behavior often confounds police, prosecutors, juries, healthcare providers, and even advocates.   Victims may not be immediately be able to accurately recall all of the details of the trauma, and their demeanor may be confusing because they may show little emotion. This can all be explained by understanding more about the brain.

The brain’s prefrontal cortex—key to decision-making and memory—often becomes temporarily impaired after a trauma. Some victims  also experience “tonic immobility”—a sensation of being frozen in place—or a dissociative state. This is a physiological response to extreme danger, yet can be perceived as “not resisting” the assault.

Rebecca Campbell has conducted numerous workshops for the police, prosecutors, the military, healthcare providers, lawmakers, and advocates to help them understand these phenomena so that they can more effectively and respectfully respond to trauma survivors.

To request a workshop, please contact Dr. Campbell directly: rmc@msu.edu


About RCGV

MSU’s Research Consortium on Gender-Based Violence faculty and staff are dedicated to research and outreach initiatives related to ending and preventing gender-based violence and improving the community response to survivors. RCGV faculty are committed to mentoring the next generation of gender-based violence researchers by providing substantial educational and employment opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a significant and widespread social problem internationally, devastating adults, children, families and societies across the globe. It includes any form of harm that is both a consequence and cause of gender power inequities. It can be physical, psychological, sexual, economic, or sociocultural, and includes but is not limited to sexual abuse, rape, intimate partner abuse, incest, sexual harassment, stalking, femicide, trafficking, gendered hate crimes and dowry abuse. Gender-based violence intersects with race-based, class-based or religiously oppressive forms of abuse, and cross-cuts many other social problems (e.g., poverty, substance abuse, mental and physical health, crime).

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