Institutional betrayal trauma

Freyd’s (1996) betrayal trauma theory holds that children sexually abused by their caretakers are prone to develop amnesia for their abuse because awareness of abuse would imperil the survival of victims by disrupting their attachment to caretakers on whom they depend for food, shelter, and clothing.

Institutional betrayal refers to wrongdoings perpetrated when an institution fails to prevent or appropriately respond to wrongdoings by other individuals. In instances when individuals experiencing traumatic events place a great deal of trust in the legal, medical, and mental health systems to address their wrongs they risk disbelief, blame, and refusal of help. Priorities of the institution, such as protecting their reputation, may increase the likelihood that institutions fail to respond appropriately. Institutions may strenuously attempt to prevent knowledge of said assaults from surfacing, which can take the form of attempting to silence the individual. Lack of validation and interpersonal trauma from institutional betrayal can be examined through a BTT lens and have been described as a “second assault,” which can exacerbate the effects of the initial trauma incurred.


Further References

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Klest, B., Tamaian, A., & Boughner, E. (2019). A Model Exploring the Relationship Between Betrayal Trauma and Health: The Roles of Mental Health, Attachment, Trust in Healthcare Systems, and Nonadherence to Treatment. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. doi.org/10.1037/tra0000453

Lawson, D. M., & Akay-Sullivan, S. (2020). Considerations of Dissociation, Betrayal Trauma, and Complex Trauma in the Treatment of Incest. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse. doi.org/10.1080/10538712.2020.1751369

Choi, K. J., & Kangas, M. (2019). Impact of Maternal Betrayal Trauma on Parent and Child Well-Being: Attachment Style and Emotion Regulation as Moderators. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. doi.org/10.1037/tra0000492

Keng, S. L., Noorahman, N. B., Drabu, S., & Chu, C. M. (2019). Association Between Betrayal Trauma and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Among Adolescent Offenders: Shame and Emotion Dysregulation as Mediating Factors. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health. doi.org/10.1080/14999013.2018.1552633

Yalch, M. M., & Levendosky, A. A. (2019). Influence of betrayal trauma on borderline personality disorder traits. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation. doi.org/10.1080/15299732.2019.1572042

Yalch, M. M., Stewart, A. M., & Dehart, R. M. (2021). Influence of Betrayal Trauma on Antisocial Personality Disorder Traits. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation. doi.org/10.1080/15299732.2020.1792025

Platt, M. G., & Freyd, J. J. (2015). Betray my trust, shame on me: Shame, dissociation, fear, and betrayal trauma. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. doi.org/10.1037/tra0000022

Carroll, A. R. (2020). Betrayal Trauma and Resilience in Former Foster Youth. Emerging Adulthood. doi.org/10.1177/2167696820933126

Goldsmith, R. E., Freyd, J. J., & DePrince, A. P. (2012). Betrayal Trauma: Associations With Psychological and Physical Symptoms in Young Adults. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. doi.org/10.1177/0886260511421672

Babcock Fenerci, R. L., & Allen, B. (2018). From mother to child: Maternal betrayal trauma and risk for maltreatment and psychopathology in the next generation. Child Abuse and Neglect. doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.05.014

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Gamache Martin, C., Van Ryzin, M. J., & Dishion, T. J. (2016). Profiles of Childhood Trauma: Betrayal, Frequency, and Psychological Distress in Late Adolescence. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. doi.org/10.1037/tra0000095

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Cromer, L. D. M., Gray, M. E., Vasquez, L., & Freyd, J. J. (2018). The Relationship of Acculturation to Historical Loss Awareness, Institutional Betrayal, and the Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma in the American Indian Experience. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. doi.org/10.1177/0022022117738749

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