LadyXandra

Question about abused women - Trigger warning!

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Trigger warning for abused people:

I got no idea where else to ask this, so bear with me:

Hypothetical senario:

A women escapes after being systematically abused for years as a sex slave to a particular "master"

Learns self defense and how to properly defend herself

If she is then put into a vulnerable position with her former abuser, is it possible for the women to mentally revert back to her abused self, foregoing any attempt at fighting back?

A woman who comes off as strong and capable, but a hidden past of being abused, is suprised by her former abuser and suddenly can't fight back and reverts mentally back to her abused self.

Is this probably/likely? From what I understand yes, but I want confirmation besides my own understanding. This is for a character that I am writing.

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Not only is your idea possible, but highly likely if the woman has not learned how to desensitize herself to overcome the trauma of her past. The escaped woman would be paralyzed by her past when facing her previous master without warning, especially if she hears trigger words or phrases, or sees items that she could not defend against during captivity. Post Traumatic Stress tends to blind a person to the now they are standing within, and their brain misfires so they believe they are in a much different place and time where they cannot fight back in many cases. The sight of a specific item can also cause the same extreme reaction that throws the person mentally into another time mentally when they were completely unable to protect their lives and bodies. Smells can also cause the same thing to happen. I've heard of combat vets returning from war who flip out over smelling burned gun powder used in fireworks. They think they are back in a full blown war zone without any way to escape mentally so long as the smell of gunpowder is present. If you learn about PTSD, you'll find many different triggers to choose between and utilize unfortunately.

Hearing repeated phrases from a period of extreme vulnerability/defenselessness before learning how to defend herself would throw her mentally back into that period before she learned to be strong and to defend herself. I survived abuse in my marriage when I was younger. My family rescued me and my infant son. they had to make sure that as the divorce proceeded, the beast could not see me without their presence. His words and smell caused flashbacks to happen to me with my ex until I found a way to break my responses to said triggers, and heal from the past so I did not have hard flashbacks that blinded me completely any longer. Abusers love to repeat certain types of phrases as a rule, so I could totally see the scenario playing out that you suggest. The hardest part of any healing is simply learning what the trigger phrases and words were so the victim can fight the habit of losing consciousness of where they actually are at that point. Desensitizing is difficult, but it can be done. Hope that helps you out somewhat.

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Thank you so much for the responses everyone. I was told that how I handled a character that I created suddenly becoming passive and not fighting back to "character destroying" because of what little character development I had given the woman shown her to be a strong, capable woman. When I threw in a plot twist of her former master coming up behind her and holding a gun to her neck, although technically she could have easily fought back and might have even won if not escaped, she froze and did as he commanded of her. It was a bit disheartening to hear that criticism because it doesn't make sense to me from what I know of PTSD and abused women. I thought the plot twist added another facet to her personality, not "destroyed" it.

Your responses have made me feel better about my choice in the direction in which I moving her character. Thank you both so much. :dance:

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Try having her reeling from shock at seeing/hearing the master then. Present her having a full blown flashback via her point of view so that she is struggling to remember that she is in a new place and time. It would clear up any issues if you leave traces of her abused self much earlier in the story through foreshadowing scenes such as her awakening from nightmares or having her acting jumpy over sights and sounds she would be accustomed to hearing/seeing during captivity. Give her a scar that twinges or other items of the same kind to hint at her past being so dark before tossing the master at her. Such foreshadowing would be normal to such a storyline. A quick flash of a disjointed scene that pops in her head could also be a great way to make clear not all is well in her strong woman's world.

If the readers find her hard to believe in when the trauma hits, it means you forgot to leave any traces that she is more complex than you have shown her to be to this point in your story line. All trauma victims have triggers, and that is a fact. Like I said earlier, victims have to learn what their triggers are so they can desensitize from them. If she does not yet know her triggers well enough, she is going to flip out completely and that is a known fact of psychology/psychiatry.

Edited by Kurahieiritr

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The thing is, I'm almost done the book by the time this happens. The woman in question is a supporting character in the book, with not that many scenes. Her being confronted by her previous master - who is my book's main vilian, but for different reasons - was a plot twist I added in at very nearly the last few minutes of the book. I plan on expanding on her story and following where this plot twist goes in a later book. I do admit that there is very little in the way of foreshadowing her trauma leading up to the confrontation, but that is what I think adds to the mystery of it all.

Basically the woman (Isabella) is a friend the hero's - the main male protagonist - and very close to end of the book, she is searching a mansion where the hero has gone earlier, trying to help him. The antagonist (Edward) of the whole book is on his way of the final escape, when he sees Isabella,recognizes her, and uses his power over her to aid in his escape, taking her along with him. Isabella *could* fight him off, but because of her past history with him and the sudden shock of him being there and holding a gun to her throat (which my character could defend against had she the will do to so) throws her into a trigger where she becomes helpless to refuse him, like she was trained do as a child and teen while being a slave to him.

The whole event is supposed to act as a suprise and an almost-to-end final plot twist that will lead into further books and stories.

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If your gonna us it in another book, don't explain it at all, other than he knows her somehow, let people wonder why she crumbled so easily until your ready to tell them - it'll drive people nuts hehehe

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I agree with Magus on this one. When a second book is in the works, then it is permissible to pull that kind of stunt. Sounds like you have a lazy reader in such a case who does not like surprises at that point. I wish you good luck in your ongoing saga.

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