Betrayal Trauma (Part 2)

October 26, 2011 09:00 AM

Part 2

“I propose that the core issue is betrayal—a betrayal of trust that produces conflict between external reality and a necessary system of social dependence.” — Jennifer J. Freyd

Betrayal Trauma is a theory that tries to predict the degree to which a negative event, perpetrated by a trusted and needed other, will influence the way events (past, present, and future) are both processed and remembered and occurs when the people or institutions we depend on for survival violate us in some way.1 Dr. Jennifer J. Freyd, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, is the author of the terms “Betrayal Trauma” and “Betrayal Trauma Theory.” Below Freyd argues that under some circumstances detecting betrayals may be counter-productive to survival.

The psychic pain involved in detecting betrayal, as in detecting a cheater, is an evolved, adaptive, motivator for changing social alliances. In general it is not to our survival or reproductive advantage to go back for further interaction to those who have betrayed us. However, if the person who has betrayed us is someone we need to continue interacting with despite the betrayal, then it is not to our advantage to respond to the betrayal in the normal way. Instead we essentially need to ignore the betrayal.2  

This is part two (2) of a seven (7) part series examining why black leadership rejects the pro-life movement, is helping to perpetrate the genocide of their own people, and what can be done to reverse this horrific reality.

Betrayal Trauma: Self Inflicted

Self-betrayal is “the intentional or inadvertent revelation of the truth about one’s actions or thoughts.” — The Oxford Pocket Dictionary3

The number one reason black leadership rejects the pro-life movement is that he or she is: post-abortive. In other words, there is an abortion in his or her life somewhere. It may be their father, mother, sister, or brother. It may be their wife, son, or daughter. It may be a member of their own congregation whom they have counseled to get an abortion. A worst case scenario might look like a leader who is married and the abortion in his or her life is the result of an immoral relationship. Furthermore, because the impact of abortion on the life of the leader is mitigated by the role (or the lack thereof) he or she played in the decision, how each leader responds to their own environment is unique. Here is where “Betrayal Trauma Theory” is helpful. If the pain involved in detecting betrayal motivates us to “change social alliances,” it is not surprising to see leaders, many of whom are suffering from the effects of a past abortion, leave clearly biblical constructs and conclaves to embrace abortion industry policies, practices, and politics. As we dig deeper into the trauma of betrayal and learn that the person who betrayed the leader is someone he or she needs to continue interacting with “despite the betrayal” (i.e., him or herself) then and only if we are willing to be transparently honest with ourselves, is it easy to understand why leaders would rather live with themselves by ignoring the betrayal than risk the ruin that can result from privately and publicly confessing and confronting the betrayal. The truth is we are no different than our leaders. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Betrayal Trauma: A Matter of the Heart

“And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, ‘Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.’ And he went out, and wept bitterly.” —Matthew 26:75 (KJV)

While any recommendation, made in good faith, should recognize the different circumstances facing different leaders at any given point in time, there is a common characteristic shared by post-abortive leaders. Like many of us, post-abortive leaders tend to see the world in a way that justifies their decisions and, as a result their view of reality, becomes distorted. This is one reason why facts and figures, logic and reason will always fail to reach the heart of the matter. This should not be hard to understand. Post-abortive leaders are people who are hurt—and hurt people, hurt people. Because abortion is clearly a matter of the heart, we must understand that only the love of Christ can heal a heart. If the apostle Peter is an example of a leader who acted contrary to his core values, then even though our leaders are smiling on the outside, many of them are swallowing a toxic sense of “self-betrayal” (i.e., the intentional or inadvertent revelation of the truth about one’s actions or thoughts.4) on the inside, with nobody to blame but themselves. 

Brothers, just as Jesus forgave Peter and met him in Galilee (Mark 16:7), we can be confident that He will forgive us, despite the betrayal, and meet us right where we are. 

Brothers, we really need to talk. 

1. Freyd, J.J. Memory repression, dissociative states, and other cognitive control processes involved in adult sequelae of childhood trauma. Invited paper given at the Second Annual Conference on A Psychodynamics-Cognitive Science Interface, Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, University of California, San Francisco, August 21-22, 1991.
2. Freyd, J.J. (2009). What is a Betrayal Trauma? What is Betrayal Trauma Theory? Retrieved Friday, August 26th, 2011 from:
3. “Self-Betrayal.” The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. Retrieved Friday, August 26, 2011 from Encyclopedia.Com:
4. Ibid.

Walter B. Hoye II is both president and founder of the Issues4life Foundation and the California Civil Rights Foundation. God used the premature birth (six months, 2.1 pounds) of his son to teach him that the fetus is a person—a living, breathing human being. In 2008, Walter and his wife, Lori, were the recipients of the 4th Annual Walk for Life West Coast’s St. Gianna Molla Award for “courage under fire” in the pro-life movement. He serves as an incredible leader for the cause of the preborn despite the personal costs, and has even been unjustly jailed for his peaceful defense of the preborn on a sidewalk outside an abortion clinic. His “Letter from the Santa Rita Jail” and California Human Rights Amendment appeal for personhood entitled “Why I Can’t Wait” are now classics. Hoye has also written a book entitled, Leadership from the Inside Out. 

This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at

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