Trauma Bonding: Children Can Be “In Love” With Their Rapist

From: victimsofpsychopaths.wordpress.com

Serendipitously, someone sent me this article.

I am currently working on the end of my healing journey, which means, dealing with the most emotionally painful and emotionally traumatizing event of my early childhood. Part of that, is to finish with the strong emotional ties I had with my father. Some people might think it should be easy for a child, or an adult, to undo a bond from a rapist. No. Not easy. Traumatic bonding is one of the most powerful relationships in families of incest…

“Traumatic bonding is “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” (Dutton & Painter, 1981). Several conditions have been identified that must be present for a traumatic bond to occur.

–(1). There must be an imbalance of power, with one person more in control of key aspects of the relationship, such as setting themselves up as the “authority” through such things as controlling the finances, or making most of the relationship decisions, or using threats and intimidations, so the relationship has become lopsided.

–(2). The abusive behavior is sporadic in nature. It is characterized by intermittent reinforcement, which means there is the alternating of highly intense positives (such as intense kindness or affection) and the negatives of the abusive behavior.

–(3). The victim engages in denial of the abuse for emotional self- protection. In severe abuse (this can be psychological or physical), one form of psychological protection strategy is dissociation, where the victim experiences the abuse as if it is not happening to them, but as if they are outside their body watching the scene unfold (like watching a movie). Dissociative states allow the victim to compartmentalize the abusive aspects of the relationship in order to focus on the positive aspects.

The use of denial and distancing oneself from the abuse are forms of what is called cognitive dissonance. In abusive relationships this means that what is happening to the victim is so horrible, so far removed from their thoughts and expectations of the world, that it is “dissonant” or “out of tune” or “at odds” with their pre-existing expectations and reality. Since the victim feels powerless to change the situation, they rely on emotional strategies to try to make it less dissonant, to try to somehow make it fit. To cope with the contradicting behaviors of the abuser, and to survive the abuse, the person literally has to change how they perceive reality.

Studies also show a person is more loyal and committed to a person or situation that is difficult, uncomfortable, or even humiliating, and the more the victim has invested in the relationship, the more they need to justify their position. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful “self-preservation” mechanism which can completely distort and override the truth, with the victim developing a tolerance for the abuse and “normalizing” the abusers behavior, despite evidence to the contrary.

The victim masks that the abuse is happening, may not have admitted it to anyone, not even themselves.”

…and in my experience, even after remembering the incest, the traumatic bonding itself can take years to recognize and years to heal.

“Trauma bonding makes it easier for a victim to survive within the relationship, but it severely undermines the victims self-structures, undermining their ability to accurately evaluate danger, and impairs their ability to perceive of alternatives to the situation.

Once a trauma bond is established it becomes extremely difficult for the victim to break free of the relationship. The way humans respond to trauma is thought to have a biological basis and reactions to trauma was first described a century ago, with the term “railroad spine” being used. Another term used has been “shell shocked.”

…This is especially true in father/daughter or brother/sister incest cases.

“Victims overwhelmed with terror suffer from an overload of their system, and to be able to function they must distort reality. They often shut down emotionally, and sometimes later describe themselves as having felt “robotic”, intellectually knowing what happened, but feeling frozen or numb and unable to take action. A victim must feel safe and out of “survival mode” before they will be able to make cognitive changes.

Many victims feel the compulsion to tell and retell the events of the trauma in an attempt to come to terms with what happened to them and to try to integrate it, reaching out to others for contact, safety, and stability. Other victims react in an opposite manner, withdrawing into a shell of self-imposed isolation. The trauma bond can persist even after the victim leaves the relationship, with it sometimes taking months, or even years, for them to completely break the bond.”

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victimsofpsychopaths.wordpress.com

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17 Responses to Trauma Bonding: Children Can Be “In Love” With Their Rapist

  1. little nel says:

    “I want to bond in a healthy way with someone who truly does love me and is not operating with distortions and illusions.”

    I know that what you stated was my most longed for desire in life. I too, craved a healthy relationship like that, which was something that had eluded me until I met my husband. I was 33 when I married for the first time. We are still in love after 30 plus years together and it keeps getting better year after year.

    Your desire is reachable and attainable. It is a good thing to crave something so beneficial in our lives that gives us so much happiness.

    • Gail says:

      Your desire is reachable and attainable. It is a good thing to crave something so beneficial in our lives that gives us so much happiness.

      Thanks so much for these words of encouragement above. I am married but I must begin anew (or in a new or different form) with the man of my dreams (my current husband). I was sexually assaulted and trauma bonded and I married 3 years later. The rapist had so much control of my mind that I was looking for him to come into the church and stop the wedding and declare me as his one and only. I was 21 years old but much less mature than 21 due to abuse. I have tons of therapy to go through and then I will need to re-marry my husband. I don’t think anyones wedding day should be ruined like mine was by this rapist! Thanks again for the encouragement! I just need to exercise patience. It seems like the longest wait for true love to unfold for me! I believe it will.

  2. little nel says:

    I think that “shell shocked” is a good description of the mental state of the child victim post abuse, especially when the victim tries to fight off the abuser, calls for help, and begs the abuser to stop hurting them without any success.

    I believe that I became mentally paralyzed in an effort to stop the inner hysteria and confusion that I felt. The only way that I could control my feelings of anger towards myself for not being able to stop the abuse was to deny the abuse. I felt compelled to “control” my emotions to cover up what I knew had happened to me so I wouldn’t feel defective or to blame.

    I think that I was trauma bonded to my denial. I remember during therapy when I spoke about the abuse for the first time, I felt as if I was going to die by the hand of some outside forces that I couldn’t see or hear and those thoughts were connected to feelings of release and healing at the same time.

  3. Gail Jones says:

    dealing with the most emotionally painful and emotionally traumatizing event of my early childhood. Part of that, is to finish with the strong emotional ties I had with my father. Some people might think it should be easy for a child, or an adult, to undo a bond from a rapist. No. Not easy. Traumatic bonding is one of the most powerful relationships in families of incest…

    I have found this bond with the person who raped me to be the most painful and traumatizing also. I never knew such pain could exist inside of a human being and they still be alive. But I am! It is difficult undoing the bond with this rapist but I am finding that it is not impossible. I HATE TRAUMA BONDS! I want to bond in a healthy way with someone who truly does love me and is not operating with distortions and illusions. The rapist told me he loved me and he has had to learn to love his wife of 15 years. He even said, Better to loved and lost than never at all. I spoke to a rape hotline and they set me straight. I was told he is a distorted toxic person or thinker and a rapist!

    • Alethea says:

      Hi Gail. Yes, he is a distorted, toxic person, but a simple phone call to the rape hotline cannot undo that bond. Do you have anyone helping you with your attachment/bond with him?

      • Gail says:

        Do you have anyone helping you with your attachment/bond with him?

        No. I am not sure if anyone knows how to help me. I have seen a few counselors who dont understand my attachment or bond with this rapist. One counselor told me I was still in love with him and not my current husband. I knew this was wrong. I ended up being more confused. Thanks for asking.

        • Alethea says:

          Gail, no therapist should be telling you what is wrong with you, or how you feel. I don’t care how many degrees they have on their wall. Psychotherapy that heals/liberates/repairs all damage, and gives new life to the client, is what I go through with Dr. De Saint Simone. http://ysatisdesaintsimone.wordpress.com/

          You can contact me for her phone number. sanjuanangel7@yahoo.com

          The answers and healing abilities are inside each and every person themselves. The therapy I do comes from YOU, the patient. The answers and healing comes from your subconscious mind -which is the soul.

          • Gail says:

            Thanks for your response. I thought the counselor I saw was out of order. I complained to the Trauma Support Clinic Manager but I don’t think it will help much. I will keep in mind your suggestion for counseling. Thx.

    • chris says:

      the same thing is happening to me at the moment. yes, it is painful

  4. Hope says:

    Wow, thank you so much for posting this. I am so close to tears! Forcing them back so that I can write. I have looked for understanding as to why I could not get angry at my abuser, and why I felt so much love and pity for him when I think about him still. I just remembered a month ago after suppressing for 34 years. I was 5 and he was 11/12. Thank you so much.

    • Alethea says:

      You are so welcome Hope 🙂

      It has taken me about four and a half decades to allow myself to release my repressed anger towards my father. I could not have done it without the therapy I do. I repressed all memory of my true feelings for him until I began to dig into my subconscious mind.

      Our true feelings lurk inside the depths of the unconscious.

      I hope some of my articles are of help to you 🙂

      Alethea

      • Karen says:

        It has taken me about four and a half decades to allow myself to release my repressed anger towards my father. I could not have done it without the therapy I do. I repressed all memory of my true feelings for him until I began to dig into my subconscious mind.

        Your words above are so encouraging. I feel like I am a bottle of emotions most of the time and they are waiting to be let out. I am in the beginning stages of understanding the trauma bond and I am left feeling angry and betrayed. I released some of my anger yesterday. It is difficult to go from feeling like I loved the rapist ….to feeling anger and hate. It feels like a rollercoaster at times. Thanks for mentioning how the mind represses the memory of the true feelings for the person. I have been avoiding these true feelings and denying them because it is painful. It hurts to have wasted love….although it really isn’t love at all. I feel so hesitant to face what is in my subconscious mind.

  5. Oh my goodness, this was timely. I’ve been journalling all afternoon about my struggle with guilt at moving forward and fear of letting go of the things that hold me back. My horror at finding myself feeling safe in my fears and terrifying memories has shocked me to my core. I’ve realised it was like that while I was abused, I cared deeply about my abuser, he was my safe person, yet he was the only person making me unsafe.
    Hard to get my head around, but wow, thanks so much. May I reblog?

    • Alethea says:

      Of course, share the article. That is what I want for everyone……to be given information that is vital.

      I forgot to say that what the article left out, is that traumatic bonding often occurs when the perpetrator is the sole provider of food and shelter, and or, in cases where the other family members (or the child’s family) does not provide any love to the child.

      Alethea

      • Jill says:

        I forgot to say that what the article left out, is that traumatic bonding often occurs when
        other family members (or the child’s family) does not provide any love to the child.

        It is so comforting to read this sentence above. This is exactly what happened to me. My family did not provide any love at all. This made it very probable for me to develop a trauma bond with the man who raped me as a child. It is difficult to part with someone who played such a vital role in my life, in terms of my dire needs. (He was not suppose to ever meet those needs. I feel anger or rage.) God will fill my void. I just want this rapist out! I want to live again! Thanks for the article. Therapy continues for me…………………..

  6. tifed3 says:

    Thanks Alethea for posting. It is very hard in my situation to see the submission of my children to their abuser on a regular basis. The courts awarded him custody and covered up the abuse. To any experienced individual it is very apparent yet we live in bondage and denial.

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