Traumatic bonding in intimate partner violence: A Relational Family Therapy approach
Intimate partner violence is defined as a form of violence where, in an intimate relationship, physical or psychological acts of violence are committed by a partner or spouse against the other partner or spouse. All of these actions are accompanied by extremely emotional dynamics, which is paradoxical, as we would expect that with the gravity of abusive and violent acts the victims will understand the need for self-protection and appropriate measures. There is a strong emotional bond between the victim and the abuser, which authors call traumatic bonding. It is an emotional dependence between two people in a relationship that is characterized by the feelings of intense attachment, cognitive distortion and behavioural strategies of both individuals that paradoxically strengthen and maintain the bond, which is reflected in a vicious cycle of violence. The termination of such a relationship or the departure from it, from the point of view of attachment which is activated in this situation, seems risky, since the victim seeks refuge in the state of perceived danger, but experiences that - after the outbreak of violence calms down - the refuge is paradoxically offered by the bully. Here we can recognize a pattern of dysfunctional affect regulation that falsely calms difficult (basic) affects and maintains a violent relationship. From the viewpoint of Relational Family Therapy, it is therefore necessary for victims that after breaking off a violent relationship or leaving it they face their painful basic affects and develop proper regulation of these, otherwise they will remain committed to this kind of relationship. Using the case study method, the paper describes the case of a client after she left a violent intimate relationship, with an emphasis on the demonstration of traumatic bonding dynamics and the resolution of their consequences in Relational Family Therapy.
 The authors acknowledges partial financial support from the Slovenian Research Agency (project No. J5-9349).
Austin Z., Sutton J. 2014. Qualitative research: getting started, The Canadian journal of hospital pharmacy, 67, 436–440.
Bancroft L. 2003. Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, New York.
Bradshaw J. 1988. Heling the shame that binds you, Deerfield Beach.
Burkett, J.P., Young L.J. 2012. The behavioral, anatomical and pharmacological parallels between social attachment, love and addiction, Psychopharmacology, 224, 1–26.
Coid J., Petruckevitch A., Feder G., Chung W.S., Richardson J., Moorey S. 2001. Relation between childhood sexual and physical abuse and risk of revictimization in women: A cross-sectional survey, Lancet, 358, 450–454.
deYoung M., Lowry J.A. 1992. Traumatic Bonding: Clinical Implications in Incest, Child Welfare, 71, 165–176.
Dudley D.R., McCloskey K., Kustron D.A. 2008. Therapist perceptions of intimate partner violence: a replication of Harway and Hansen 2019‘s study after more than a decade, Journal of aggression, maltreatment & trauma, 17, 80–102.
Dutton D.G. 1995. The domestic assault of women: Psychological and criminal justice perspectives, Vancouver.
Dutton D.G. 2007. The Abusive Personality: Violence and Control in Intimate Relationships, New York.
Dutton D.G., Nicholls T.L. 2005. The gender paradigm in domestic violence research and theory: Part I. The conflict of theory and data, Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10, 680–714.
Dutton D., Painter S.L. 1981. Traumatic bonding: The development of emotional attachments in battered women and other relationships of intermittent abuse, Victimology, 6, 139–155.
Dutton D., Painter S.L. 1993. Emotional Attachments in Abusive Relationships: A Test of Traumatic Bonding Theory, Violence and Victims, 8, 105–120.
Dutton D.G., White K.R. 2012. Attachment insecurity and intimate partner violence, Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17, 475–481.
Finkel E.J., Slotter E.B. 2007. An Attachment Theory Perspective on the Perpetuation of Intimate Partner Violence, DePaul Law Review, 56, 895–908.
Fisher H., Brown L., Aron A., Strong G., Mashek D. 2010. Reward, addiction, and emotion regulation systems associated with rejection in love, Journal of Neurophysiology, 104, 51–60.
Gostečnik C. 2008. Krik po očiščenju v težkih travmah in zlorabah, Bogoslovni vestnik, 68, 513–527.
Gostečnik C. 2017. Relational Family Therapy, New York.
Gostečnik C., Repič Slavič T., Poljak Lukek S., Cvetek R. 2014. Trauma and religiousness, Journal of Religion and Health, 53, 690–701.
Gostečnik C., Cvetek R., Pate T., Valenta T., Simonič B., Repič Slavič, T. 2019. Cyclic repetition of physical abuse. In: E. Osewska (ed.), Strong families – Strong societies, Krakow, 123–152.
Graham D.L.R., Rawlings E.I. 1991. Bonding with Abusive Dating Partners: Dynamics of the Stockholm Syndrome. In: B. Levy (ed.), Dating Violence: Young Women in Danger, Seattle, 119–135.
Johnson S.M. 2008. Emotionally focused couple therapy. In: A.S. Gurman (ed.), Clinical handbook of couple therapy, New York, 107–137.
Johnson W.L., Manning W.D., Giordano P.C., Longmore M.A. 2015. Relationship context and intimate partner violence from adolescence to young adulthood, Journal of Adolescent Health, 57, 631–636.
Lang A.J., Stein M.B., Kennedy C.M., Foy D.W. 2004. Adult Psychopathology and Intimate Partner Violence Among Survivors of Childhood Maltreatment, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 1102–1118.
McColgan M.D., Dempsey S., Davis M., Giardino A.P. 2010. Overview of the problem. In: A.P. Giardino, E.R. Giardino (eds.), Intimate partner violence: A resource for professionals working with children and families, St. Louis, 1–29.
Mele M. 2009. The time course of repeat intimate partner violence, Journal of family Violence, 24, 619 – 624.
Repič Slavič T., Gostečnik, C. 2017. Relational Family Therapy as an Aid Toward Resolving the Trauma of Sexual Abuse in Childhood in the Process of Separation in the Couple Relationship, Journal of marital and family therapy, 43, 422–434.
Roberts A.R. 2007. Overview and new directions for intervening on behalf of battered women. In: A. Roberts (ed.), Battered women and their families, Springer Publishing Company.
Intervention strategies and treatment programs, New York 2007, 3–31.
Schore A.N. 2003. Early relational trauma, disorganized attachment, and the dvelopment of a predisposition to violence. In: M.F. Solomon, D.J. Siegel, Healing trauma, New York, 107–167.
Scott K., Straus M. 2007. Denial, Minimization, Partner Blaming, and Intimate Aggression in Dating Partners, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22, 851–871.
Siegel J.P. 2006. Dyadic Splitting in Partner Relational Disorders, Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 418–422.
Simonič B., Rijavec Klobučar N. 2017. Attachment Perspective on Marital Dissolution and Relational Family Therapy, Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 58, 161–174.
The national domestic violence hotline, 50 Obstacles to Leaving: 1-10. 2013. https://www.thehotline.org/2013/06/10/50-obstacles-to-leaving-1-10/ (20.07.2019).
The World Health Organization. 2010. Preventing intimate partner and sexual violence against women: taking action and generating evidence, Geneva.
U.S. Department of Justice, Intimate partner violence 1993–2010, 2012, 2015. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ipv9310.pdf. (16.07.2019).
Walker L.E. 1979. The battered woman, New York.
Wedding D., Corsini R.J. 2014. Case studies in psychotherapy, Stamford.
Whitfield C.L., Anda R.F., Dube S.R., Felitti V.J. 2003. Violent Childhood Experiences and the Risk of Intimate Partner Violence in Adults: Assessment in a Large Health Maintenance Organization, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18, 166–185.
Winnicott D.W. 1986. Home is where we start from, London.
Wright E.M., Fagan A.A. 2013. The cycle of violence in context: exploring the moderating roles of neighborhood disadvantage and cultural norms, Criminology: an interdisciplinary journal, 51, 217–249.