The term “trauma bonding” was originally coined by Patrick Carnes, who was a proponent of the concept of sex addiction. He originally developed the term to describe “the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings, and sexual physiology to entangle another person.” A simpler and more encompassing definition is that traumatic bonding is: “a strong emotional attachment between an abused person and his or her abuser, formed as a result of the cycle of violence.”
Problematically, the term is often misapplied to survivors rather than focusing on perpetrators and their choices and tactics. In this episode, Ruth and David discuss four ways the concept works against survivors:
David and Ruth also explore the connections between the concept of trauma bonding and Stockholm Syndrome, co-dependency and learned helplessness. They also examine the differential impact of this term on poor and indigenous women, women of color, and trans survivors.
Toward the end of the show, David and Ruth talk about how the Safe & Together Institute’s approach offers professionals alternative approaches to working with survivors including:
Listen to other related episodes:
Episode 2: Victim blaming
Episode 3: Language and professional terms that cover up realities of abuse
Check out related e-courses on our Virtual Academy
You asked, we answered. Amidst our current, global political and social upheavals, during movements, activism and testimonies, during legal cases, fear and victim-blaming – we’ve heard your voice asking for clarity, insight and thoughts about how all of this is reflected in the Safe & Together Model. Many of the stories and news pieces we hear about from our partners all over the world involve complex questions, yet the beginnings of change and hope are based on the sound, simple principles of the Model.
To that end, in our new podcast, “Partnered with a Survivor,” S&T’s Executive Director and Founder, David Mandel and Ruth Stearns Mandel offer a raw and intimate glimpse into their personal and professional partnership and what it means to truly partner with a survivor, raise a family based on S&T principles and engage in social change at every level. This is a podcast for practitioners and parents, partners and employers, coworkers and friends – and anyone else who may want clarity, understanding, hope and healing.
What does it mean to give consistent consent? What is coercive control? How do you probably see it or feel it every day? This is a podcast you’ll wish you had heard when you were a teenager. In unsure, confusing times, it’s our goal to widen the audience for the Safe & Together Model-associated material to survivors, their family members, and even perpetrators. For professionals familiar with the Model, it will offer another angle on the issues addressed by the Model. For those who don’t know Safe & Together, it offers a connection to the themes and ideas behind the work.
These podcasts are a reflection of Ruth & David’s on-going conversations which are both intimate and professional and touch on complex topics like how systems fail victims and children, how victims experience those systems, and how children are impacted by those failures. Their discussions delve into how society views masculinity and violence, and how intersectionalities such as cultural beliefs, religious beliefs and unique vulnerabilities impact how we respond to abuse and violence. These far-ranging discussions offer an insider look into how we navigate the world as professionals, as parents and as partners. During these podcasts, David & Ruth challenge the notions which keep all us from moving forward collectively as systems, as cultures and as families into safety, nurturance and healing.
Note: Some of the topics discussed in the podcast are deeply personal and sensitive, which may be difficult for some people. We also use mature language to describe some feelings. Finally, we use gender pronouns like “he” when discussing perpetrators and “she” for victims for two reasons: 1.) statistically, more men are perpetrators than are women when it comes to domestic violence, abuse and coercive control; and 2. For clarity’s sake, sticking with one pronoun causes less confusion for the listener. We know there are many men who are in abusive relationships and we are not invalidating their situations.
About the podcasters: David and Ruth are committed to creating systems and cultures of nurturance and safety. David Mandel founded the Safe & Together Institute which trains systems in domestic violence aware practices from a child safety lens. Ruth Stearns Mandel is a survivor of complex abuse, child abuse and domestic abuse growing up in a cult. She is a former teacher and trainer using her experience to clarify messages and complexities around abuse and survivors.