Traumagenic dynamics

Tags: Mental Health

by D. Finkelhor and Associates (1987) Reproduced here with the author's kind permission.

1. Traumatic sexualization

Dynamics

  • Child rewarded for sexual behavior inappropriate to developmental level.
  • Offender exchanges attention and affection for sex.
  • Sexual parts of child fetishized.
  • Offender transmits misconceptions about sexual behavior and sexual morality.
  • Conditioning of sexual activity with negative emotions and memories.

Psychological impact

  • Increased salience of sexual issues.
  • Confusion about sexual identity.
  • Confusion about sexual norms.
  • Confusion of sex with love and caregetting or caregiving.
  • Negative associations towards sexual activities and arousal sensations.
  • Aversion to sex or intimacy.

Behavioural manifestations

  • Sexual preoccupations and compulsive sexual behaviors.
  • Precocious sexual activity.
  • Aggressive sexual behaviors.
  • Promiscuity.
  • Prostitution.
  • Sexual dysfunctions: flashbacks, difficulty in arousal, orgasm.
  • Avoidance of or phobic reactions to sexual intimacy.
  • Inappropriate sexualzation of parenting.

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2. Betrayal

Dynamics

  • Trust and vulnerability manipulated.
  • Violation of expectation that others will provide care and protection.
  • Child's wellbeing disregarded.
  • Lack of support and protection from parent(s).
  • Psychological Impact.
  • Grief, depression.
  • Extreme dependency.
  • Impaired ability to judge trustworthiness of others.
  • Mistrust, particularly of men.
  • Anger, hostility.

Behavioral manifestations

  • Clinging.
  • Vulnerability to subsequent abuse and exploitation.
  • Allowing own children to be victimized.
  • Isolation.
  • Discomfort in intimate relationships.
  • Marital problems.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Delinquency.

3. Stigmatization

Dynamics

  • Offender blames, denigrates victim.
  • Offender and others pressure child for secrecy.
  • Child infers attitudes of shame about activities.
  • Others blame child for events.
  • Victim is stereotyped as "damaged goods".

Psychological impact

  • Guilt.
  • Shame.
  • Lowered self-esteem.
  • Sense of differentness from others.

Behavioral manifestations

  • Isolation.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Criminal involvement.
  • Self-mutilation.
  • Suicide.

4. Powerlessness

Dynamics

  • Body territory invaded against the child's wishes.
  • Vulnerability to invasion continues over time.
  • Offender uses force or trickery to involve child.
  • Child feels unable to protect self and halt abuse.
  • Repeated experience of fear.
  • Child is unable to make others believe.

Psychological impact

  • Anxiety, fear.
  • Lowered sense of efficacy.
  • Perception of self as victim.
  • Need to control identification with the aggressor.

Behavioral manifestations

  • Nightmares.
  • Phobias.
  • Somatic complaints: eating and sleeping disorder.
  • Depression.
  • Dissociation.
  • Running away.
  • School problems, truancy.
  • Employment problems.
  • Vulnerability to subsequent victimization.
  • Aggressive behavior, bullying.
  • Delinquency.

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