Wolf, who also directs the Southcliff Christian Counseling Center in Fort Worth, writes about “trauma bonds,” or a “powerful emotional connection between abuser and victim developed and strengthened by repeated traumatic events.”
A type of defense mechanism with roots in attachment theory and learned helplessness, trauma bonds are often seen in cases of domestic violence where expressions of love are followed by abuse. The victim then works to please the abuser to restore the relationship, only to have the cycle repeat itself. The repeated instances of cruelty and affection create traumatic bonds which empower the abuser and imprison the victim. “Paradoxically, victims often experience a deeper bond with their abusers than with those who treat them well,” Wolf writes.
“Understanding the bonding formation’s spiraling nature makes it clear why victims simply do not leave the relationship. Grasping this rationale also offers a much-need explanation to those who continually struggle with unrelenting attachment even after surviving such a relationship,” she adds.
Wolf provides five signs of a forming trauma bond, including the isolation of the victim from family and close friends, and the victim taking the blame for the abuse. She also provides a path toward breaking through the bonds.
“Being subjected to traumatic bonding from an intimate partner creates profound, lifelong wounds. Even though overcoming this complex issue is daunting, there is hope. Christian counselors have a unique ability to speak words of healing into the lives of these individuals, breaking the damaging bonds and setting them free on the road to recovery,” Wolf writes.