May 5, 2021

Victim Blaming Post #6 Trauma Bonded

 The term "Trauma Bond" is just as victim blaming as codependency, reactive abuse, stockholm syndrome, learned helplessness, Drama Triangle, etc, and just as dangerous for abuse victims. To be clear, I'm not referring to the bond that happens between two victims sharing their trauma together, ex. bonding after natural disasters, victims in support groups, etc. That definitely happens and is a good thing. I've met the best of friends through the journey of healing trauma from abuse. 

I'm officially referring to the term "Trauma Bond" developed by Patrick Carnes (he was influenced by earlier works from Dutton & Painter, 1970 & 1981, and Bruno Bettelheim, 1940). The foundation behind the "trauma bonding" theory states that victims don't leave abusive relationships because victims are compulsively SEEKING to be abused, addicted to trauma, addicted to being abused, addicted to the abuser, acting out past childhood trauma, codependent, and in the drama triangle (Drama Triangle means someone isn't really a victim and is only pretending to be a victim), etc. Basically trauma bonding believes victims have underlying issues that "led" them to be in abusive relationships and become trauma bonded. This not only patholagizes the victim, but it also places responsibility on the victim, which is why it's victim blaming. 

Sadly the label "Trauma bond" has become extremely popular, yet most people and professionals don't understand the patriarchal/misogynistic victim blaming foundation it was created in. Even therapist Bessel Van Der Kolk helped popularize the label in his book The Body Keeps The Score. Many of the earlier theories that led up to the creation of trauma bonding were based off of the works by a man called Bruno Bettleheim. Bettleheim wrote papers in 1943 about being in nazi camps, and how nazi prisoners tried to mimic the gestapo (almost like they were addicted and wanted to be just like them), etc. He later wrote tons of psychology papers about human bonding, and (autistic) children, etc. 

Turns out Bettleheim was a big fraud and liar. Nothing he wrote about the concentration camps actually happened. He was there, yes, but what he claims happened didn't happen. They interviewed tons of other people in the same camp. Bettleheim also was never a psychologist like he claimed, he was a history major. He only took 2 psychology classes, yet lied about his credentials and treated thousands of children and experimented on them, and wrote tons of psychology papers /studies (many of which later became the inspiration of "trauma bonding"). But since Bettleheim was a fraud, so are the foundations and theories fueling "trauma bonding". (To read more about Bettelheim, go HERE

So why are we still using a label that's very existence was never based on facts? 

Here are a few quotes that further show why it's victim blaming :

Victim Blaming

* ".. partners will be tempted to stay in exploitive relationships that are unhealthy because they are addicted to the trauma. We use terms like love addict or relationship addiction or traumatic bonding to describe situations in which a person cannot let go of a partner who is destructive to oneself or others." - Mending Shattered Heart, Stefanie Carnes 

* "Noted neuroscientist Louis Cozolino suggests that codependence is rooted in “stress addiction” because of trauma. When noted researchers speak of addiction to the trauma, the world is full of examples. Just think of ones you know: 

… spouses who stay in battering situations…. 

… sexual abuse victims who work as prostitutes" - Mending Shattered Hearts, Stefanie Carnes 

*.."Common Dynamics in Addicted Relationships:

Trauma Bonding

..Partner believes or tolerates addict’s lies and manipulations…Partner stays in a relationship that s/he knows is abusive…Partner tolerates exploitation…Partner may be repeating patterns from past relationships." - Facing Heartbreak by Stefanie Carnes  

 * "It is very important for codependents to understand the elements of trauma bonding. It is also critical for persons struggling with a traumatic bond to understand the nature of codependency. There is a rich set of resources and an extensive set of support groups that can help sort through denial and help manage reactive responses. Many survivors who have trouble with trauma bonding are addicts themselves. They can also participate in groups appropriate to the addictions they have." - The Betrayal Bond by Patrick Carnes 

* "Each of these conditions adds to the emotional bond and deepens addictive attachment", "repetitive cycles of abuse… confusion about love…. there is a history of abuse… there is a familiar role and script to be fulfilled….victims and victimizers switch roles of rescuer and abuser." etc. - The Betrayal Bond by Patrick Carnes

* "Compulsive Abuse Seeking — The victim sets up relationships to repeat the same patterns of abuse. This creates familiar binds, neuro-chemistry, and coping strategies. For a relationship to work, it must comply with the original abuse scenario. What can vary is the amount of risk and intensity. Adults may combine a number of abuse scenarios to get the desired effect. At the core of every addiction is compulsive behavior. Compulsion means that you exhibit the behavior even though you know it is self-destructive. You cannot stop it on your own. Traumatic bonding is essentially a compulsive relationship with very definite patterns of compulsive behavior." - The Betrayal Bond by Patrick Carnes

* "Trauma Bonds

What we see is highly addictive attachment to the persons who have hurt the clients.... 

These attachments cause the clients to distrust their own judgment, to distort their own realities so much, the clients can place themselves at more risk. The clients are bracing themselves against further hurt. Taking precautions which almost guarantee more pain. These attachments have a name. They are called trauma bonds. 

...These occur when a victim bonds with someone who is destructive to them. Similarly, adult survivors of abusive and dysfunctional families struggle with bonds that are rooted in their own trauma experiences. To be loyal to that which does not work - or worse, to a person who is toxic, exploitive, or destructive to the client, is a form of insanity" - CSAT course by Patrick Carnes 

Say what? These attachments cause the CLIENT (us) to "distrust their own judgment, to distort their own realities so much, the clients can place THEMSELVES at more risk."???? OH ok, so it's not the abusive men that do it, it's our addictive bond that allows US to do it to OURSELVES. Got it...🀦

Let's break down this nonsense :

1.ABUSE VICTIMS AREN'T ADDICTED TO THEIR ABUSERS: The chemicals involved with addiction are different than the chemicals involved in bonding. As a recovering addict as well, I personally find it offensive to imply that a woman's desire for love and connection is put in the same category as the perpetrator who is choosing to harm her. There's this notion out there that seems to believe that if feeling romantic love for a partner activates similar neurons in the brain as being addicted to a substance, than **POOF** it must mean you're addicted to the activity as well! πŸ₯΄ If this were true then everyone, and every thing, in the world would be addicted simply for needing human connection. Or for running, or swimming, or even giving birth (--->"Aw, you feel so happy and love your baby so much!? Congratulations, you're addictedπŸ‘πŸ‘πŸŽ‰… πŸ™„). While studies show love and addiction ARE similar in the beginning stages (just like most rewarding things in life..), they actually don't activate all the exact same neurons in the brain, especially in the oxytocin system. There's a difference! 

2. IF ABUSED WOMEN AREN'T ADDICTED TO THEIR ABUSER, THAN WHY DO THEY STAY??: This is a myth. Statistically most abused women do eventually leave. But even if a victim stays, it's not because something is wrong with her. Imagine seeing a man walk up to his wife and cut off her legs, and she's utterly confused, screaming and pleading with her husband and everyone around to help her. Would you ever say to that woman "Why don't you run away? Why do you keep taking his crap? What insecurities or childhood trauma led you to getting your legs cut off? Why were you seeking to get your legs cut off? Geez lady, you must be addicted for sticking around!" ??? No! Because that would be a horrible thing to say. 

This is what abusers do. Their choices to cause harm are debilitating for victims. It literally injures women and metaphorically chops their legs off. And despite all that victims STILL find ways to actively resist abuse and better their situations. That's AMAZING πŸ’— So why is everyone more focused on what's "wrong with the victim", instead of whats wrong with the PERPETRATOR? 

3. BUT SURELY SINCE SHE MARRIED THE ABUSER, SHE *MUST* HAVE ISSUES THAT ATTRACTED HER TO AN ABUSER, RIGHT? Wrong. Think of it this way, if she married a healthy man, no one would think twice about her loving nature, her personality, or her "bond". No one would call it unhealthy. No one would say she's addicted, seeking abuse, or responding irrational. Yet, if he's abusive, people suddenly do. Why is that? - - > Because men have blamed victims for thousands of years and have been convinced that if you're a victim then there "must" be something wrong with you, in order to make themselves feel safe in their little homes and keep up with their "Just World" theory. (Google Just World theory. Very interesting) 

We can't automatically pathologize a woman's human nature or personality and call it unhealthy simply because she's with an abusive man. He wasn't always an abusive man. She's solely in a relationship with an abuser because the abuser lied, and because misogyny still dominates the world, making the odds against all women. That's it. It's that simple. We aren't human lie detectors, we can't know when someone is lying 24/7. Abusers even fool therapists & friends. Should we pathologize them and believe there's something wrong with them too for believing the abuser? Nope. There's nothing inherently wrong with a woman who is abused. She's simply injured and exhausted. She didn't "bond" to him because she's addicted, unhealthy and has childhood trauma, etc. She bonded to him because she was bonding to someone she loved and was led to believe was a good guy. I guarantee she wasn't like "Ope, he's a jerk and is going to ruin my life, I better partner with him!πŸ‘" 😢. She was doing what humans are meant to do... and he chose to lie. 

I'm not saying an abuse victim isn't experiencing anything chemical caused by the abuser. But I see it more like starvation. If an abuser tortures and starves a victim, especially with random intermittence, is it at all shocking that the victim becomes utterly obsessed with food, thinking about it all the time, depressed, tired, irritable, etc? No, that would be a completely normal response that the human body would naturally go through. It has nothing to do with how healthy a person is, or their childhood experiences. It's a built in bodily response to not getting something our bodies need for survival. We wouldn't blame the starving victim for being hungry, we would blame the abuser for starving her. 

So why is it any different for a victim who is being starved of other physical needs, like love, connection, and safety? 

Other Articles :

Victim Blaming Post #1 Codependency

Victim Blaming Post #2: Reactive Abuse or Mutual Abuse

Victim Blaming Post #3 The Drama Triangle (Karpman Triangle)

Victim Blaming Post #4 Stockholm Syndrome

Victim Blaming Post #5 "Learned Helplessness"

Victim Blaming Post #6 Trauma Bonded

Victim Blaming Post #7 : Prodependency

Victim Blaming Post #8: Ignoring Red Flags