Feb 1, 2013 12:39 AM by Jacqui Heinrich,

Experts speak on why alleged sex assault victim didn't fight back

We're learning more about an alleged sexual assault at a Colorado Springs massage parlour: police say a 24-year-old Denver woman booked a session at Springs Best Massage and claims she was sexually assaulted by her masseuse, Shannon Atkinson.

Thursday afternoon Colorado Springs police told News 5 about a dozen tips have been received since the story was first reported Wednesday night.

The woman tells police that after massaging her back, Shannon Atkinson began performing sex acts on her while complimenting her beauty. The police report says the woman did not protest or fight back because she "froze out of fear". The woman says once Atkinson finished she got dressed, paid for the $105.00 massage, and then called police.

When police questioned Atkinson he allegedly admitted to performing the sex acts and told police that the woman never protested or asked him to stop.

Police are now charging Atkinson with a Class 4 Felony of Sexual Assault.

Since new details came to light from the arrest affidavit, some people wanted to know why the victim didn't fight back. News 5's Jacqui Heinrich talked to experts at TESSA, a local service for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Erica Laue, a Safe House Therapist, told Heinrich the alleged victim's reaction is a common one: although many people believe there are only two possible reactions to trauma-- fight or flight-- the third and most commonly used option is to freeze. According to statistics, that's what about 80% of victims do in a time of crisis.

Laue says questioning why the victim didn't confront her alleged offender is a symptom of 'victim blaming', a cultural problem in America. "When we question why someone made the choices they made during and in the immediate aftermath of a sexual assault, we are very subtly saying to them there are other choices they could have made and they could have done something differently that would have kept them from being a victim. We are subtly victim blaming," Laue told Heinrich.

Laue says victim blaming is the reason that sexually-based crimes are some of the most underreported, and the tendency for our society to ask things like, 'but were they asking for it?' deters victims from coming forward, leaving potential criminals at large and victims alone and ashamed.

Police are still searching for other potential victims in this case; if you have any information you're asked to call police at (719) 444-7000. A helpline is also available through TESSA 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at (719) 633-3819.



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