November 14 2022

Types of Betrayal Trauma


What are the different types of betrayal trauma?

Betrayal trauma occurs when something or someone you trust and rely upon breaks your trust. As social beings, we rely on many people and organizations to take care of us. 

Children trust their parents to provide for them physically and protect them from danger. Members of churches and schools rely upon these organizations to educate them about life and morality. Romantic partners go to each other for emotional support and comfort. In each of these social situations, we feel support, comfort, and belonging as long as there is open communication and trust. 

Although we rely upon these connections for support, unfortunately, each of them has the potential to break our trust. The initial shock of finding out that something you rely upon for support and protection has lied to you or failed to protect you is traumatic. We call this type of trauma betrayal trauma. 

Generally, researchers and psychologists have broken down the types of betrayal trauma into 3 groups:

  1. Institutional Betrayal Trauma
  2. Childhood Betrayal Trauma
  3. Romantic Betrayal Trauma
Identifying which type of trauma you or someone you know is experiencing is important so you can tailor your recovery methods. Identifying the type of betrayal trauma you are experiencing can connect you to research, support groups, and therapists who specialize in a specific type of trauma. 

What is Institutional Betrayal Trauma?

An institution is a social organization with the purpose to accomplish something. Schools, companies, governments, the military, law enforcement, healthcare, and religious organizations are all examples of institutions. When these organizations mistreat you or fail to protect you from something, you can experience institutional betrayal trauma. 

Examples of institutional betrayal trauma include:

  • Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
  • Institutional leaders abusing Vulnerable Members of the Organization (i.e. marginalized groups, women, young children, interns, or the elderly)
  • The discovery of actions that go contrary to the purpose of the organization

What is Childhood Betrayal Trauma?

Children rely upon their parents to meet their physical, emotional, and financial needs. Studies have shown that when children’s needs aren’t met they struggle and experience trauma. 

When parents, friends, or relatives hurt children or betray their trust it is difficult for children to distance themselves from the abuser. Their young age, lack of experience, and education make it impossible to meet all of their physical, emotional, and financial needs. Many children who are experiencing betrayal trauma have no choice but to stay and continue to rely upon adults who are causing them harm. 

Examples of Childhood Betrayal Trauma include

  • Emotional abuse such as yelling, criticizing, embarrassment and humiliation. 
  • Physical abuse such as hitting, slapping, kicking, or punching. 
  • Sexual abuse – children are legally unable to give consent and therefore any sexual activity with a child is sexual abuse. 

What is Romantic Partner Betrayal Trauma?

Healthy communication, respect, and emotional support are the main elements of romantic partnerships. As a partner, you are more open to sharing details of your life with your partner than you are to anyone else. As a partnership, you may share finances, children, and/or living space.

In a romantic partnership you can experience three types of Romantic Betrayal Trauma:

  1. Financial
  2. Emotional
  3. Sexual

Each of these types of romantic betrayal trauma will influence your relationship and affect the trust you feel in one another. 

An example of financial romantic betrayal trauma is when your partner reveals significant debt or problems with their finances. Your expectations of communication about finances could be shattered by a revelation that what you thought was happening in your partnership turned out not to be the case. 

An example of emotional romantic betrayal trauma is when you discover your partner is lying about something or perhaps emotionally cheating on you. Again this type of betrayal can impact the trust you have with your partner and make it difficult to communicate and recover. 

Sexual romantic betrayal trauma includes

  • Infidelity
  • Cheating
  • Being forced to have sex
  • Discovery of secret sexual behavior like pornography
  • Sexual Anorexia or the withholding of sex

Sexual intimacy is an important factor in any romantic relationship. As a partnership, you may have set expectations and rules about the sexual nature of your relationship and how it follows ideas you have about religion, intimacy, and fidelity. When something is revealed that goes against these expectations trust may become damaged. 

How do I begin my betrayal trauma recovery?

You deserve to have trust, respect, and open communication in your relationships. Although betrayal inflicts a devastating blow to the trust within your relationship, it doesn’t mean healing isn’t possible. 

Bloom offers a haven for you to discover you’re not alone in your journey in recovering from romantic betrayal trauma. While different types of betrayal trauma can affect everyone differently, having someone to relate to may bring a sense of peace and validation to your heart. Consider reaching out for therapy and expert advice on how to deal with betrayal trauma in your life. 

Focus on Healing with Bloom 

While healing from betrayal trauma is possible, it takes time and focused effort. Taking the courageous step to begin your recovery doesn’t have to happen alone. 

Our coaches can work with you to start pinpointing the ways betrayal trauma alters your mind and body and discover how to best respond. Become part of our FREE community today.

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