Signs Of Traumatic Bonding: “Why Do I Love My Abuser?”

I had a therapy session today with my Psychiatrist and the subject of my Mother came up. She was the organiser, along with my Father, of the paedophile that abused me for fourteen years in Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s. He asked me was I angry with her. I said no I felt no anger towards her. Did I hate her he asked. No I answered, I didn’t hate her, in fact I loved her and still was grieving her death of three years ago which I had not been able to reconcile to as I had not been allowed to attend as I was in hospital at the time following a suicide attempt.

He explained that this was not unusual for the victim to attach to the abuser no matter the extent of the abuse. Every child needs an attachment figure otherwise they would have nothing to live for. I did everything I could to please her. I took the beatings, the being locked in the room for days on end withno food, only water and desperately yearning for her to come back and rejoicing when she did even though I knew it meant that the abuse from the men would start again. It was used as a way of controlling me and keeping me in line, making sure I would do as she wanted. It sounds perverse to say that I love her but I do and don’t blame her for what happened but rather blame myself and hold great shame and guilt about it. It’s totally wrong I know but no one can convince me otherwise. It is a widely known phenomenon amongst abused children. Tamara Hill writes about this phenomenon insightfully.

ByTámara Hill

Do you find yourself picturing a loved one in your mind?

Are you thinking about an experience that still hasn’t left you?

After giving a presentation at a conference, in 2014, of parents and families who have lived through years of abuse, I recognized that not many people understood the full definition of traumatic bonding. The ones who did know what the term meant either minimized it or maximized it as an influence in their lives.

This article will discuss traumatic bonding and provides some examples of 9 signs you may be experiencing this phenomenon.

Minimizing or magnifying the term Traumatic Bonding only perpetuates incorrect views. Abuse takes many forms. Abuse is one of the most traumatizing events that a child could experience, especially when there is trauma entwined. For many children, abuse is unexpected and their ability to cope is often minimal compared to the abuse.

Trauma is defined as a terrible event that outweighs a child’s ability to cope (National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 2015). This inability to cope often leads to mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and even personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder, narcissism, or avoidant personality. The inability to cope can lead to “dysfunctional” ways of existing or interacting in the world in most cases.

Trauma can interfere with our ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships (work, marriage, friend, family) and appropriate social interactions. Trauma can also affect biological and neurological development throughout the lifespan and lead to a lifetime of emotional lability (“switchable” emotional states or moods). There are real and lasting brain changes that occur in children who have experienced abuse. These lasting changes often interfere with adulthood.

So that we are clear about the definition of abuse I will define it here.

Abuse, although defined in many ways, is:

“(A) Any recent act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes non-accidental serious mental injury to or sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.
(B)  An act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes non-accidental serious physical injury to a child.
(C) A recent act or failure to act or series of the acts or failures to act by a perpetrator which creates an imminent risk of serious physical injury to or sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.
(D) Serous physical neglect by a perpetrator constituting prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the failure to provide the essentials of life, including adequate medical care, which endangers a child’s life or development or impairs the child’s functioning.”

It is important to understand that there are multiple factors that can impact the total influence of trauma on the child experiencing it. These factors can either protect us from the trauma or plunge us deeper into it. These factors include risk factors (things that make us more vulnerable to further trauma) and protective factors (things that make us more resilient to trauma):

Risk factors:

  • low socioeconomic status,
  • substance abuse,
  • poor mental health or emotional reactivity,
    financial difficulties,
  • poor coping style,
  • others reaction to the trauma,
  • no support system
  • lack of employment,
  • being bullied or harassed,
  • living in situations that increase one’s exposure to trauma,
  • low self-esteem,
  • lack of identity,
  • domestic violence or abuse, and
  • poor academic performance
  • homelessness
  • Risk factors that are combined can trigger “complex trauma” such as a child who has witnessed their mother being physically abused by his/her father and is struggling with homelessness, low income, depression, anxiety, and substance abusing parents.

The following protective factors can help build a layer of resilience:

Protective factors:

  • support system,
  • financial stability,
  • good emotional and psychological health,
  • positive coping skills,
  • connectedness with the community such as school, church, or youth/support groups
  • social or familial connections,
  • education or academic achievement,
  • employment, and
  • problem-solving skills

To view Tamara’s video on the 9 signs of Traumatic Bonding visit her site

Or Click on This link that will take you directly to the video

References
Cafe Mo,. (2016). The stir. 10 signs you’re in a ‘traumatic bond’ with an abusive spouse. Retrieved online 3/2/2016, from http://thestir.cafemom.com/love_sex/162086/10_signs_youre_in_a.
Schneiderman, M, & Baker, A. (2015 ). Bonded to the abuser: How victims make sense of childhood abuse. Retrieved online on 3/1/2016 from, http://psychcentral.com/lib/bonded-to-the-abuser-how-victims-make-sense-of-childhood-abuse/.

For more information on CPTSD and other issues visit our YouTube Channel

If you need support or would like to connect with like-minded people join our Private and Closed online Facebook Group for Child Abuse Survivors and those with CPTSD. Click here to join

4 comments

  1. This was an interesting read, as I still love my abuser. Dare I say I have even forgiven them? Flashbacks have been plentiful as of late, and I don’t understand why. My mind has just been bringing up my past a lot lately. Not just the abuse but things I have done “wrong”. I’m glad I am not alone in still loving my abuser. I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me even more so than already was.

    • I totally understand that you still love your abuser and may have even forgiven him/her. I am sorry that you are having so many flashbacks recently that must be very hard to deal with as it is just like going through it all over again. Can you work out the trigger? By the way there is nothing wrong with you. You have done nothing wrong or bad. Your abuser is to blame for all that happened not you. You should feel no shame or guilt. This is very important. YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME not now or ever. All the best Erin.

      • Thank you so much for your kind words. It was actually a commerical for an episode of Dr. Phil that triggered me. Things happen like that I guess. And to confront my abuser would be futile as they now have dementia. I have to find a different way to come to terms and process it. It is a secret that I have held deep within myself that not even my husband or best friend know. Sometimes it can be painful carrying it around.

      • That happened to me. My Mother had dementia before I could confront her and find out the real truth about what had happened. I had suppressed all memory for 32 years and it was on 2012 with the Royal Commission into Child Abuse here in Australia that I started having flashbacks and then I had a breakdown and was diagnosed with CPTSD and DID. It all came flooding back. I hope you are able to share your burden with someone soon as it is terrible to hold in it. You must be very strong and resilient. Erin

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

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