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The four trauma responses

BY RORY BANWELL


Fight, flight, appease and freeze.


When a survivor of sexual violence gains the courage to disclose what has happened to them, so often they are met with overlying “whataboutism” discourse where every commentator has an opinion as to what they did should’ve done in that situation.


“If that was me.. I would’ve just bashed them”


“Why didn’t they run away?”


“Well why didn’t they just keep saying no, screaming it over and over?”


And trust me, all survivors ask themselves these questions over and over too, after the fact.





But the way we respond to threatening situations all depends on our brain chemistry and what hormones our brain uses to make decisions in these acutely high stress situations.


Taken from a 2020 article in Medium: https://medium.com/fearless-she-wrote/trauma-response-and-complex-ptsd-fight-flight-freeze-appease-2da4cf76a8be


· If you feel anger or frustration when afraid, your likely response will be fight

· If you feel terror or alarm when afraid, you’ll probably respond by flight

· If you feel anxiety or desperation when afraid, you’ll likely freeze

· If you feel dismay or foreboding, you’ll try to appease


Appease is the latest reaction to be added to the accepted threat responses and it has come about by looking into complex PTSD (c-PTSD) patients and discussing their trauma and how they reacted. The “appease” reaction often occurs in people who have faced similar threatening situations before and therefore want to stay safe by complying and minimising confrontation. This could be because previously other responses did not work.


So I have broken down the four trauma responses into these handy slides to give you a better insight into why survivors may have acted the way they did, even if you can’t understand it yourself.


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“Always was, Always will be”, Rory is honoured to create art on unceeded Gumbaynggirr country and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging.