Trauma Bonds (Continued)

(c) Courage Worldwide.  Certified Volunteer Training.  November 2012.

Continued from my post entitled “Trauma Bonds: Why a Victim Stays & “Loves” Her Pimp”.

Stockholm Syndrome and Trauma Bonds

How trauma bonds are displayed –

  • Positive feelings by the victim toward the abuser/controller (aka the abuser is “good”)
  • Negative feelings by the victim toward family, friends or authorities trying to rescue/support them or win their release (aka the rescuer is “bad”)
  • Support of the abuser’s reasons and behaviors
  • Positive feelings by the abuser toward the victim
  • Supportive behaviors by the victim, at times helping the abuser
  • Inability to engage in behaviors that may assist in their release or detachment

Indicators of trauma bonding –

  • Shows ongoing symptoms of trauma or PTSD
  • Intensely grateful for small kindness
  • Denies violence when violence and threats of violence are actually occurring
  • Rationalize violence or makes it into a joke
  • Denies anger at exploiter to others and to self
  • Believe they have some control over abuse
  • Self-blame for situation and abuse (at least 50% of blame is transferred onto the victim by self)

Trauma bonds strengthen when –

  • Trauma cycles are repeated
  • The victim believes in his or her uniqueness
  • The victim mistakes intensity for intimacy
  • The trauma endures over time
  • There are increasing amounts of fear
  • The fear-induce neurochemical reactions occur earlier in life and affect the organic development of the brain
  • The trauma is preceded by earlier victimization
  • The victim is surrounded by reactivity and extreme responses
  • The betrayal of power relationships is greater
  • The betrayal of trusted relationship is greater

Trauma bonds are disrupted when –

  • Healthy bonds are available
  • A group or community can debrief or re-role the victim (before making their trauma personal)
  • the victim can identify (a) cycles of abuse (b) roles of victim, victimizer and rescuer
  • the victim learns (a) how to psychologically distance from intensity (b) boundary-setting strategies
  • Metaphors (images) exist for the victim to use in the moment
  • The victim can reframe interactions of trauma
  • The victim understands the role of carried shame (aka taking on what’s not theirs)
  • The victim accepts trauma bond’s systematic nature (avoiding blame)
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Trauma Bonds: Why a Victim Stays & “Loves” Her Pimp

(c) Courage Worldwide.  Certified Volunteer Training.  November 2012.

Most of society cannot fathom why an individual would stay with their pimp or sell their bodies for sex.  Yet, when a victim of sex trafficking says of his/her pimp, “I love him”, and this is the reasons why [s]he cannot fathom leaving him, [s]he is describing trauma bonds in the best way that [s]he can.  [S]he knows that [s]he has very strong feelings for him and can only attribute those feelings to love.  These victims do not have the knowledge they need to accurately describe the dynamics involved in the bonding process that occurs with abuse and trauma and therefore attribute their intense feelings the best way the can – love.

Basics of Bonding

  • Bonding is a biological and emotional process that makes people more important to each other over time.
  • Bonding is in part why it is harder to leave a relationship.
  • Experiencing extreme situations and extreme feelings together tends to bond people in a special way.
  • Growing up in an unsafe home makes later unsafe situations have more holding power.  This has a biological basis beyond any cognitive learning.

Trauma Bonding

Trauma bonds are able to form only because human beings have a biological need to form attachments with others [Bowlby, 1988].  Any attachment is better than no attachment at all, a fact that is evidenced by the reality of relationships that are otherwise incomprehensible.  In times of stress and danger, people have a greater need to be cared for and attach to others.

Felicity de Zulueta, in her description of “Traumatic Attachment” says: “Such an attachment can be understood as the internalized product of repeated experiences in which these children have felt both terrified and – paradoxically – desperately in need of their caregiver, whose protection is felt as essential for their survival.”

Trauma bonds are not formed accidentally on the side of the perpetrator.  There is extreme intentionality in creating a “need” and “bond” between themselves and their victim.  The bond occurs because the well-being of the victim is dependent upon the abuser.  The abuser gradually persuades the girl [or boy] to spend more alone time with them, isolating her from family and friends.  He creates the persona of a “provider” and wants to be in sole charge of the money so that he can get  her anything she desires.  He controls her time, where her attention goes and ultimately her behavior in the name of “love” and what “makes him happy”.  Her desire to fulfill this role and make him happy is exciting at first but as time goes on the mind and emotional control often leads to physical and sexual abuse.  Any “bucking” of the system leads to punishment and so “making him happy” is not solely for his sake anymore, but for her protection and survival as well.