Neurobiology of Sexual Assault – Part 1: Experience and Behavior

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90 Minutes

Originally Aired
September 16, 2016

Jim Hopper
James W. Hopper, Ph.D.
Clinical psychologist and independent consultant, Teaching Associate in Psychology, Harvard Medical School

Traumatic experiences have immediate, automatic and powerful effects on the human brain. This presentation explains how fear and trauma can alter brain functioning during sexual assault, resulting in experiences and behaviors that are, unfortunately, still commonly misunderstood by many who work with victims of sexual assault.

Participants will learn about the key brain circuitries impacted by fear and trauma, including the prefrontal cortex and the fear circuitry. Participants will come to understand brain-based responses to sexual assault, especially those associated with involuntary habits and reflexes. This presentation provides a critical foundation for learning and applying trauma-informed responses with people who have been sexually assaulted.


Following this webinar series, participants will be better able to:

  • Understand key brain circuitries impacted by fear and trauma.
  • List a minimum of three common brain-based, involuntary subjective responses to sexual assault.
  • Identify possible brain-based habitual behaviors determined by social conditioning, and reflexive behaviors selected by evolution, that can occur involuntarily during sexual assault.

Up Next

Neurobiology of Sexual Assault – Part 2: Experience and Memory


EVAWI is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing to provide Continuing Education contact hours for nurses (Provider #15641).

Registered Nurses may purchase 1.5 contact hours after completing this webinar.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2013-TA-AX-K045 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.


Unless otherwise indicated, the content of this webinar is owned or controlled by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI), and protected by various intellectual property rights and unfair competition laws of the United States, foreign jurisdictions, and international conventions. With a paid registration or subscription, you are free to personally listen to this webinar, as many times as you wish. You may also excerpt or cite the material following accepted conventions. However, you may not allow other individuals to listen to this webinar without a registration or subscription.