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Betrayal Trauma Symptoms and Definition

Betrayal Trauma is the trauma that is caused by a person that is close to the victim and depends on them for survival or support. The concept was introduced by Jennifer Freyd in the year 1994, namely the Betrayal Trauma Theory. This kind of trauma occurs when institutions or people on which an individual relies on for resources, protection, and survival violates the well being or trust of that individual.

Betrayal Trauma is any form of trauma that is independent of the reaction to the trauma. This theory states that the degree to which the event presents the betrayal by someone who is trusted will influence the way that event is remembered and processed.

Betrayal Trauma

The Betrayal Trauma Theory suggests that a minor who is dependent on that person for its survival will have a higher need to dissociate and repress the traumatic experience of the conscious mind. This process is referred to as betrayal blindness- the unawareness, and forgetting exhibited by the victims towards that betrayal. This blindness may include two types of betrayals that are not often referred to as trauma, such as infidelity, inequities in society or workplace, etc. The victims depend on betrayal blindness to preserve institutions, social system, and relationships upon which they rely. For the higher goal of survival, the cheater-detecting mechanism may be suppressed.


Betrayal Trauma is a form of psychological amnesia that is formed to evaluate the significance of blocking the painful experience and attachment in human survival. There are several different types of Betrayal Trauma. Given below are some of the most common forms of betrayal trauma:

A. Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse involves molestation by single or multiple caregivers or close relative. Betrayal trauma is one common survival technique by victims of child sexual abuse. The psychiatrist has now discovered that emotional and sexual abuse during childhood has far more serious effects on the victim than just betrayal trauma. Research shows that child sexual abuse leads to more significant disruption in capacities and influences fundamental human ethics.

A survivor of child sexual abuse may repress the memories but cannot escape the psychological aftereffects of the incident. Betrayal trauma theory suggests that child sexual abuse is intertwined with psychogenic amnesia or the dissociative process as a means to maintain an attachment with the predatory caregiver and promote survival. For such victims, acknowledgment of the incident will increase the potential danger of the child.

What Is Betrayal Trauma

B. Institutional Betrayals

The institutional betrayal occurs when the fault lies with an institution that fails to prevent or appropriate responsibility of any wrong-doing by some other people. For instance, when people go through a traumatic experience they place a lot of trust in medical, legal, and political institutions. When they do that there is always a chance of refusing to help, disappointment, and blame.

Sometimes these institutions do not effectively implement their laws in fear harming their reputation. For instance, if a university student reports that she was sexually assaulted by her professor and the university instead of helping the student tries to silence her in order to protect the prestige of their university, then they are causing institutional betrayal.


C. Law Enforcement

History is a witness that the executive officers in America have used coercive force time and time again on innocent people. Such forms of public brutality are considered to be a form of institutional betrayal. Reports claim that everywhere around the world cultural minorities experience greater police brutality. People collectively believe that law enforcement is in place to protect them and safeguard their rights. When the same police force or public body is used to suppress the people, then the citizens feel betrayed.

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