“After the birth of my first daughter I ended up having nightmares and on
medication for the depression. The midwives told me I wasn't in labour, and to
shut up because other mothers in the ward were trying to sleep. I went through
12 hours of labour completely by myself with no pain relief, screaming so loud my lungs were burning. They refused to call my husband or my mother because they kept telling me I was "imagining it". The one time I screamed so loud that they finally came into my room and my daughter's head was already out and my vagina had already torn open. They then added insult to injury by saying "You silly girl why didn't you call us". I spent the next 3 weeks soaked in my own blood from the aftermath. ”


“I have survived cancer (twice).  I have survived a custody battle for my child with my first husband.  I watched my beloved die a slow, undignified death.  I have dealt with gynaecological surgery for the damage done to me during my vaginal delivery.  Each of things destroyed a part of me.  None of them were as bad as my childbirth experience with my one and only child.”


“Fewer and fewer women are having children and I don’t blame them.  They have the right to self-preservation and who wants to bring daughters into this world to be treated as badly.”


 “These things I know to be true from my vaginal delivery:
1. Sexual sadists love careers in this field.
2. Sexual sadists aren’t always men.
3. Women who believe motherhood and their children will somehow repay all their sacrifices with any gratitude or respect are setting themselves up for a life of disappointment and pain.
4. Women who want to have children should not do so if they are married or living common law. The law will eat them alive and their lives will be ruined by custody issues and a cruel ex. Better not to let the father know he is a father. It is your only 100% protection.
5. If women are having children to end loneliness or because they need a soul to love and nurture it is best to get a dog or cat instead. There are lots of lonely, unloved mothers and wives out in the world. Your need to love and nurture is that thing that is good about cultures but your culture will not value you for that.
6. You can spend the motherhood part of your life managing a household, loving and protecting your children, handling budgets and finances, negotiating relationships with doctors, teachers, etc. etc. – all those things other people get paid big bucks for – and you will still be considered ‘unskilled’ by employers.
7. The only one you can trust is YOU. Don’t let yourself down.

Signed: Been There; Know That

"It was the most shameful, humiliating experience of my life".

“Wow, this is the only site I really see out there that hits closer to home regarding my nightmarish child birth experience. For a while I really thought I was alone, reading everything happening only in Africa and other developing countries and not US and Canada.
I am confident they do not say much in childbirth classes so I was so happy and confident had trusted the medical team . I now feel so humiliated and violated, have been suffer this condition and was told I need to have surgery to correct it. I now figured that I had doctors that did not believe in the C section. She stated that it’s a major surgery that has lot of risks. And now, I need surgery to 'fix' this so how did it help me????”


I came to recognize over the years that the ‘affection’ I had for my midwife was really traumatic bonding.  Please put this article on your website so other women can recognize this and change their pattern.   Thank you for all you do.


International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences | 2008  Hide copyright information

Traumatic Bonding

In contrast to normative bonds and attachments, which are characteristically affectionate and protective, traumatic bonding refers to a counterintuitive variation in which one member of the bonded pair intermittently victimizes or traumatizes the other person. The term traumatic bonding was first employed to describe a powerful and destructive bond that is sometimes observed between battered women and their abusers, or between maltreated children and their caregivers (Dutton and Painter 1981). It has since been applied more generally to describe strong emotional ties that may form between victims and their oppressors across a range of relationships and types of abuse (e.g., the Stockholm Syndrome; see Strentz 1980).

The necessary conditions for traumatic bonding are that one person must dominate the other and that the level of abuse chronically spikes and then subsides. The relationship is characterized by periods of permissive, compassionate, and even affectionate behavior from the dominant person, punctuated by intermittent episodes of intense abuse. To maintain the upper hand, the victimizer manipulates the behavior of the victim and limits the victims options so as to perpetuate the power imbalance. Any threat to the balance of dominance and submission may be met with an escalating cycle of punishment ranging from seething intimidation to intensely violent outbursts. The victimizer also isolates the victim from other sources of support, which reduces the likelihood of detection and intervention, impairs the victims ability to receive countervailing self-referent feedback, and strengthens the sense of unilateral dependency.

The traumatic effects of these abusive relationships may include the impairment of the victims capacity for accurate self-appraisal, leading to a sense of personal inadequacy and a subordinate sense of dependence upon the dominating person. Victims also may encounter a variety of unpleasant social and legal consequences of their emotional and behavioral affiliation with someone who perpetrated aggressive acts, even if they themselves were the recipients of the aggression.

Theoretical explanations for this phenomenon are divergent and controversial. Psychodynamic theorists have employed concepts such as masochism, repetition compulsion, and identification with the aggressor (van der Kolk 1989; Young and Gerson 1991) to explain how such seemingly self-destructive relationships can be formed. A central developmental tenet of this perspective is that a proclivity toward abusive relationships and traumatic bonds is rooted in the victims traumatic childhood attachments. Attachment theory has also been applied to explain traumatic bonding as an unresolved form of insecure attachment (Saunders and Edelson 1999) in which the capacity for self-regulation has been impaired by the alternately abusive and protective actions of an attachment figure. Each of these perspectives has persuasive elements, but the explanatory mechanisms are difficult to operationalize and have therefore gone untested.

Learning theory offers an explanation based on the consistent finding that intermittent reinforcement schedules can strengthen and maintain behavior even during periods when the reinforcer is absent. In the cycle of relational behavior attributed to traumatic bonding, the vic-timizer applies intense punishment, then negatively reinforces compliant behavior from the victim by ceasing the punishment, and soon after shifts to lavishing the victim with various forms of noncontingent positive reinforcement. This pattern of punishment and reinforcement may constitute a particularly powerful form of doublebind or vicious cycle, especially given the victims legitimate fear of being injured or killed in retaliation for any act of defiance.

Little empirical research has been published examining the individual and situational characteristics that predict the development and maintenance of traumatic bonding. Some support has been found both for the construct of traumatic bonding and for the importance of the intermittency element for predicting postrelationship distress among victims (Dutton and Painter 1993). But the most perplexing and counterintuitive aspect of traumatic bondingthe victims feelings of affection and longing toward the victimizer following termination of the abusive relationshiphas not been studied with the kind of rigor that would provide definitive findings, and the sociopolitical and philosophical aspects of this phenomenon make it particularly difficult to address from a scientific perspective.


Dutton, Donald G., and Susan L. Painter. 1981. Traumatic Bonding: The Development of Emotional Attachments in Battered Women and Other Relationships of Intermittent Abuse. Victimology: An International Journal 6 (14): 139155.

Dutton, Donald G., and Susan Painter. 1993. The Battered Woman Syndrome: Effects of Severity and Intermittency of Abuse. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 63 (4): 614622.

Saunders, Eleanor A., and Jill A. Edelson. 1999. Attachment Style, Traumatic Bonding, and Developing Relational Capacities in a Long-Term Trauma Group for Women. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy 49 (4): 465485.

Strentz, Thomas. 1980. The Stockholm Syndrome: Law Enforcement Policy and Ego Defenses of the Hostage. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 347 (1): 137150.

Van der Kolk, Bessel A. 1989. The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma: Re-Enactment, Revictimization, and Masochism. Psychiatric Clinics of North America 12 (2): 389411.

Young, G. H., and S. Gerson. 1991. New Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Masochism and Spouse Abuse. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training 28 (1): 3038.

Gilbert Reyes


Why Do They Stay? Traumatic Bonding

Traumatic bonding may be defined as the development of strong emotional ties between two persons, with one person intermittently harassing, beating, abusing, or intimidating the other.

There are two common features in the structure of trauma bonded relationships:

1. The existence of a power imbalance, wherein the maltreated person perceives him/herself to be dominated by the other person.

2. The intermittent nature of the abuse.

Power Imbalance

Social psychologists have found that unequal power relationships can become increasingly unbalanced over time. As the power imbalance magnifies, the victim feels more negative in her self-appraisal, more incapable of fending for herself, and more dependent on the abuser. This cycle of dependency and lowered self-esteem repeats itself over and over and eventually creates a strong effective (emotional) bond to the abuser.

At the same time, the abuser will develop an overgeneralized sense of his own power which masks the extent to which he is dependent on the victim to maintain his self-image. This sense of power rests on his ability to maintain absolute control in the relationship. If the roles that maintain this sense of power are disturbed, the masked dependency of the abuser on the victim is suddenly made obvious.

One example of this sudden reversal of power is the desperate control attempts made by the abandoned battering husband to bring his wife back into the relationship through threats and/or intimidation.

Intermittent Abuse:

When physical abuse is administered at intermittent intervals (random times) and when it is intersperced with permissive and friendly contact, the phenomenon of traumatic bonding seems most powerful.

The three phases involved in the cycle of violence (tension building, battering and "honeymoon") provide a prime example of intermittent reinforcement. The unpredictable duration and severity of each phase serve to keep the victim off balance and in hopes of change. The "honeymoon" phase is an integral part of traumatic bonding. It is this phase that allows the victim to experience calm and loving feelings from the abuser and therefore strengthens her emotional attachment.


Stockholm Syndrome primarily develops under the following conditions:

Victim perceives the abuser as a threat to her survival, physically or psychologically.

Victim perceives the abuser as showing her some kindness, however small.

Victim is kept isolated from others.

Victim does not perceive a way to escape from the abuser.

Victim focuses on the abuser's needs.

Victim sees world from abuser's perspective.

Victim perceives those trying to help her as the "bad guys" and the abuser as the "good guys."

Victim finds it difficult to leave the abuser even when it is OK to do so.

Victim fears the abuser will come back to get her, even if he is dead or in prison.

Victim shows signs of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) including depression, low self-esteem, anxiety reactions, paranoia and feelings of helplessness, and recurring nightmares and flashbacks.