Was that a fawn response?

Not open for further replies.


Policy Enforcement
So for people's understanding, my grandad abused my sisters and went to prison for it many years ago. He got out and it felt like everyone pretty much acted like nothing happened though we saw him only once a year at first. Eventually he got quite ill and when taking him to hospital nanny was trying to get out of the car when dad was moving it cause him mum and grandad all thought she'd got out the car when mum and grandad did cause she took ages cause she needed help when she said she didn't so nanny's arm got mangled and she broke her hip. So after the hospital they both came to live with me mum dad and my older sister. I wasn't comfortable with this but they couldn't live on their own, refused to go in a care home and no one else in the family would look after them. I just tried to act normal around grandad cause although I could do this when we visited him seeing him every day was another thing. Most of the time I was really anxious around him, worrying he'd do something but sometimes I'd purposely sit in the living room with him and try to be around him more I didn't fully understand why I was doing it other than feeling sick of feeling trapped in my own house. I felt almost obsessed with him and wanted to be around him even if I wasn't supposed to be sitting in the living room with him and watching TV upstairs instead if I wanted or sitting in the office upstairs which was like another living room cause he couldn't get upstairs. Recently I've seen people mentioning the fawn response and I wonder if that's what I was doing???
Since it's the title I ask here. What is the difference between fawn reponse and acting a role because you couldn't find a better way to pass time while having to be with your abuser ?

For exemple I once was in car with my abuser alone. He was driving me back home because I wasn't able to directly confront him about what he done to me. In the car I was feeling awful but we were having about 20 minutes to be at my home. I chit-chat knowing he feels better this way then later started to be hyper and pretending I was planning to ask him to help with next time I'll be moving. I was acting too joyful under the stress to the point he probably noticed something was wrong.

I think in these context it's important to know I'm autistic
I wonder if you are torn between your natural instincts to care for someone in need and feeling fear, anger, and disgust around this person or contempt. It seems clear no adult would openly address the situation and there was an expectation that you should just go along with it. Fawning is a survival skill that works in dangerous situations where fight, flight, and freeze don't seem to be good options. It seems to me you chose a way of coping that was successful as you are still alive, and that practicing self-compassion might be soothing by noticing the suffering that you had to endure by being put in that situation, that others suffer in the same situations when families are silent and do not hold the abuser accountable, and thanking your wise inner self for doing the best she could to cope in a situation that she should not have been placed.
Not sure about fawn response, so I’ll leave that for others to comment on.

But I just wanted to say - this must have been (and probably still is) incredibly confusing for you.

He was your grandad (so should have been a safe person) - but you knew he had been sexually abusive

He came to live with you and you were presumably expected to be ok with that - but he had just been released from prison for abusing your sisters.

You likely experienced very mixed feelings - being fearful of him and what he might do and keeping away from him, and also being obsessed with him, and proactively making yourself be alone around him. Perhaps you loved him as he was your grandad…and also felt fear/contempt/anger because of what you knew he had done.

All of this is an awful lot for anyone to hold and navigate - whatever their age. I don’t know how anyone really expected you to be in that situation. It’s a terrible situation to be in and to not be given any say in whether you felt ok about him moving in, considering what he’d done. I find it really shocking, actually, that your parents invited him to live with you all, knowing what he’d done.

Excuse my language, but I can’t think of a better way of saying it in this moment - him moving in with you, given all the circumstances, must have been a real head f*ck. And I think the various things you did (including perhaps some fawning) was you trying to try as many strategies as you could to just find a way to try to make sense of what had happened and, as successfully as you could, navigate the present situation you found yourself in. I’m sorry you had to deal with this.
@barefoot he hadn't just come out of prison, we'd been seeing him for years. I think I was 19 when he came to live with us but mum has always seen me as more vulnerable and never trusted him cause he never thought he did anything wrong. When he was in prison he wrote a letter to my two sisters who he abused and they're the ones with mums support who got him put in prison. The prison wouldn't let him send it. We only found out about the letters after he died when my uncle was helping my nanny go through stuff. He was going to just get rid of it but told mum about it saying no one needs to read that crap and he read it so he knew what it said. Mum said she wanted to read it and told my two sisters about it and they didn't want to read it. Mum was then too scared to read it so got dad to tell her vaguely what he thought about it since he'd just read it on his own. Dad said to mum you won't like it.
To be honest, I don’t think it matters whether he moved in the day after he was released or 10 years + after he was released…he had gone to prison for sexually abusing your sisters, your mother thought you were vulnerable and she didn’t trust him…and yet your parents allowed him to move in knowing what he had done. I think that’s an awful lot for anyone to get their head around and try to navigate.
@barefoot I was told to stay upstairs to keep me safe

Yes, I saw you say that before. But I think that’s quite hard in itself - you were given the responsibility to keep yourself safe from a convicted sex abuser. It was on you to hide yourself away upstairs in your own home. Somewhere that you should have been safe. But it wasn’t safe. Because your grandad was allowed to move in even though the people who let him in knew he had abused your sisters.

Stay upstairs so you’ll be safe…well, arguably, you would have potentially been safer if you didn’t still have to engage with him, and if he wasn’t then living in the same house as you.

I’m not saying this to bash your parents - I don’t know them and there may be other important contextual information that I’m missing.

I’m simply saying, there were a lot of mixed messages flying around (grandad’s not safe and not to be trusted and we think you’re vulnerable and at risk of being harmed, so you just live upstairs now, because we don’t think you’re safe…but even though we don’t trust him and think he’s dangerous and think you’re unsafe, we’ve decided to let him come and live here with us and you…) It doesn’t feel to me that your safety was prioritised here.

So, as I mentioned before, in that environment, I think you were just trying out different ways to help navigate a very strange and unpleasant situation,
@barefoot mum said if she'd known about my incidents she wouldn't have let him live with us but I didn't remember it for years including when he lived with us and just made up excuses in my head at the time and just pushed it away and decided I didn't need to ever think about it again.
Not open for further replies.