Impact of Interpersonal, Family, Cultural, and Institutional Betrayal on Adult Survivors of Abuse

Alexis A. Adams-Clark, Jennifer M. Gómez, Robyn L. Gobin, Laura K. Noll, Brianna C. Delker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Adult survivors of abuse are impacted by not only the individual perpetrator but also by broader relationships and social systems. These influences include the survivor’s relationship with the perpetrator(s), family members and members of institutions who are bystanders to abuse, institutional policies relevant to how reports of abuse are handled, and the larger context of inequality. When taking a social justice approach to trauma research, it is vital to acknowledge how such interpersonal, familial, institutional, and sociocultural factors can influence posttraumatic outcomes and result in increased harm to victims and survivors. In this chapter, we use betrayal trauma theory (Freyd 1996) as the foundation for conceptualizing the harm of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. We detail what is known about prevalence rates of abuse, psychological and neurobiological effects, and risk and protective factors. We then review additional theoretical models that consider the multifaceted social ecology in which abuse occurs. Specifically, we explain how the concepts of family betrayal (Delker et al. 2018), institutional betrayal (Smith and Freyd 2014), and cultural betrayal (Gómez and Gobin 2020) advance the study of trauma for diverse populations. We close with a review of the literature on evidence-based and evidence-informed treatments for adult survivors of abuse, with a specific focus on the role of cultural competency in therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Interpersonal Violence and Abuse Across the Lifespan
Subtitle of host publicationA Project of the National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence Across the Lifespan (NPEIV)
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9783319899992
ISBN (Print)9783319899985
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • Betrayal trauma
  • Cultural betrayal
  • Family betrayal
  • Institutional betrayal
  • Posttraumatic outcomes
  • Sexual abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • General Medicine


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