My abuser has given me…. Trauma Bonding My name is Darina and I would like to talk to you about Trauma Bonding. You might have not heard about it? Trauma Bonding occurs as a result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement or reward and punishment creates a powerful emotional bond. Often victims mistake this for feelings of love and it then becomes a struggle to break free. To help you understand, I would like to share a story of Jane and Toni (names changed for safety reasons). Jane had met Toni after a tricky break up in the hopes that she would have a new start. At first Toni seemed like the nice guy, the one she could have a family with and be happy. Toni did come with a package however – he had a crazy ex. Toni would often say to Jane how crazy and psychotic his ex was and how much it had affected him. Jane felt bad for him and made it her burden to help him. She began to excuse all his behaviours – things like drug use, his emotional outbursts, difficult relationships with his family and many other things. On a number of occasions Toni cheated on Jane, but he told her that is was not his fault, as she did not do what he wanted her to do, so he needed to go elsewhere. Every time she tried to get him help he turned on her, accusing her of putting pressure on him, being too bossy, not being enough for him, not understanding him and so on. But then came the days when he would be nice to her begging her to help him, telling her she was the only one for him, she was the only one who could help him. So, she stayed and tried harder and so the circle of abuse continued and the trauma bond becoming strong with each full turn… Fast forward 18 months later to when their daughter was five months old and he threatened to kill her. Jane knew she needed to protect her daughter from him so she left. She contacted Next Chapter and began to receive support from myself. During our first meeting Jane told what has been happening and how she felt about all of this. Jane struggled to understand what had been going on and often would ask if she was the perpetrator, as that was how her abuser had made her feel for leaving him and taking their daughter with her. Jane poured her heart out to me and the incidents she described to me clearly showed emotional and psychological abuse, coercive control and elements of sexual and physical abuse. Jane could not bring herself to accept that she was a victim, so we did not put labels on anything. Jane struggled to understand why it happened to her, what was wrong with her and how to break the emotional ties to her abuser. Sharing a child with Toni made it even more difficult as he would often accuse her of preventing him from being a father as a further way to manipulate her and play on her emotions. Jane has found herself torn between being told not to go back for her safety and the safety of her child and feelings of love and the believe that she needs to help Toni. Jane worked so hard trying to understand what was happening to her and why she felt the way she did. We spoke about what a trauma bond is and the types of emotional and psychological abuse as well as how to help herself break free. 18 months of abuse had stripped Jane of any confidence, self-esteem and the ability to control her emotions. Jane would often tell me that she could not believe what was happening, that she felt angry or tired, which is some of the stages victims of domestic abuse need to go through to be able to move forward. The first step to recovery (after she recognised that she was a victim) was to go ‘cold turkey’. Yes, I use this expression as often trauma bond can feel like an addiction. Jane had moved to a new house, changed her number and blocked Toni. At first she struggled and had a bit of a ‘relapse’ when she allowed him to come to her home and had contact with him, but as soon as he became abusive something clicked for Jane and she made the final decision to leave and not look back. She started again. No contact with Toni at all. Deleted his pictures and removed all the items from her home that reminded her of him. As she was no longer looking for what he was doing Jane had found herself with some spare hours that she could dedicate to herself. She started to take better care of herself, she read lots of inspirational books and is working hard to push herself forward and be herself again. I want to leave you with this final message Breaking a trauma bond is not easy, it requires dedication and support. We are here to support and help you, to listen to you and not to judge. You can do this!