Can a person have a fight AND flight response during the same episode? The DV expert testified that immediately prior to the murder, Ms. Arias had a Fight or Flight response. Jodi Arias' testimony indicated that she initially ran, stopped to retrieve the gun, then shot Travis Alexander. According to her version, after the gun failed to stop Mr. Alexander, she again fled and retrieved a knife and stabbed him to death. This run, shoot, run, stab, slash sequence is impossible as determined by the fight or flight response. The Fight or Flight response occurs when a stressful event invokes fear and the reptilian brain forces us to make a split-second decision as to whether we are capable of fighting off an assailant—or we can’t. In this response, stress hormones then flood our extremities and permit us to fight to the death or run like hell. If a person’s reptilian brain determined that the best course of action were to run, then a Forrest Gump-style sprint would have ensued and the runner could have gained an amazing head start back to Yreka before the other person was able to put his britches on. However, the brain – particularly the reptilian brain – is not physically designed to tell us to run, then stop, do an about face to go back and fight. The decision is EITHER to Fight OR Flight, not to Flight AND Fight.
Are DV victims really silent about their abuse? This expert claimed at one point that victims try to change their perpetrators’ behavior. This is absolutely false. Victims are groomed from the very beginning to believe that they are the problem and the consequence for them is that are berated, put down, chastised, humiliated and beaten into submission. Victims desperately look for ways to change their own behavior because their perpetrators tell them that it’s the victims’ fault they were abused. The true dynamic is that abusers want victims to change—not the other way around. Victims only want to appease their perpetrators in order to stop the abuse. So victims often reach out for answers—to “fix” their own inadequacies and modify their behaviors so they can end the abuse. Victims are groomed to believe they caused the violence and, as a result, victims assume ownership of the abuse. Perpetrators are pessimists and their negative opinions keep their victims from placating them. The victims simply can't successfully stem the tide of abuse because the perpetrators are not looking for resolutions—they are looking for blame. No matter what victims do, perpetrators twist and distort reality, leaving victims defeated and helpless. This is commonly referred to as “Gaslighting” and it is a high-level form of manipulation because perpetrators can lie far better than their victims can tell the truth. Victims will discuss their abuse, but not by complaining about the perpetrator; rather by explaining and minimizing their partner's culpability or seeking a way fix themselves. Silence doesn't become the rule for victims until their support system starts telling them they are being mistreated and that it isn’t their fault. Victims then defend their perpetrators say things like others don’t understand what their partners have been through.
Would a victim try to protect a perpetrator's reputation, even after they commited murder? Here’s a glaring problem I see with the Jodi Arias as DV victim scenario: the murder victim’s body was seemingly posed in the shower naked with legs spread for the entire world to see. His reputation was then smeared by accusations of pedophilia and wanting his playmate to wear braids and dress up in Spiderman underwear. Every behavior – and I mean every behavior – is motivated by an intention. Real victims of domestic violence genuinely love their partners, even if the world doesn’t understand why. Before victims resort to lethality they have doubt, reservation, hesitation and remorse. Therefore, even in death, victims will protect their abusers. A real victim would have covered their perpetrator's body to protect his/her reputation. Given Travis Alexander's reputation in his community, exposing him as Ms Arias did was the ultimate humiliation...a classic treatment of a perpetrators towards their victims.