Module Three - Institutional Betrayal
3 - Institutional Betrayal
Content Level: Advanced
Contributors: Jennifer Freyd, PhD; Warwick Middleton, MB BS, FRANZCP, MD; Bridget Klest, PhD; Carly Smith, PhD; Su Baker, MEd, edited by John O’Neil, MD
In this module, institutional betrayal will be explored in a variety of settings with broad implications for abused victims.
Institutional betrayal occurs when an institution (academic, military, religious, commercial, legal, healthcare, etc.) fails to protect an individual against harm, or to respond effectively when harm occurs, when protection is a reasonable expectation. Victims, perpetrators, witnesses, and treaters may display betrayal blindness (denial) so as to preserve relationships, institutions, and social systems upon which they depend.
Institutional betrayal exacerbates the symptoms of traumatic stress, and the clinician ought to be sensitive to this interplay. Victims tend to leave institutions that have betrayed them, compromising their social supports. The treating healthcare system may itself constitute another institutional barrier facing the client, and the clinician ought to understand their own position within that context.
The betrayal of victims is documented as occurring in a wide range of institutions including churches, schools, scouting bodies, orphanages, universities, political organizations, police forces, sporting bodies etc. Credible evidence in multiple countries points to the existence at times of groupings of senior societal figures including politicians, involved in the sexual abuse of children. The large numbers involved in documented international web-based pedophile groupings points to the capacity of humans to organize around common interest, and how embedded organized abuse is in a society where the public image of such abusers is frequently one of total respectability. The findings of the globally unprecedented Australian Royal Commission into institutional aspects of child sexual abuse are enormously instructive in documenting the enormous resistance major institutions have to investigating child sexual abuse occurring within their structures.
1. Define institutional betrayal, betrayal blindness and organized ongoing abuse
2. Examine and describe historical examples of organized abuse
3. Discuss how institutional betrayal complicates traumatic experiences.
4. Discuss the impact of institutional betrayal on the treatment of the trauma survivor
A. Smith, C. P., & Freyd, J. J. (2014). Institutional betrayal. American Psychologist, 69(6), 575. doi: 10.1037/a0037564.
B. Middleton, W. (2013). Parent-child incest that extends into adulthood: A survey of international press reports 2007-2011. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 14:2, 184-197.
C. Gómez, J. M. (2015). Microaggressions and the enduring mental health disparity: black Americans at risk for institutional betrayal. Journal of Black Psychology, 41(2), 121–143.
D. Gomez, J. M., Smith, C. P, Gobin, R. L., Tang, S. S., & Freyd, J. J. (2016). Collusion, torture, and inequality: understanding the actions of the American Psychological Association as institutional betrayal [editorial]. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 17, 527–544.
E. Smith, C. P. (2017). First, do no harm: institutional betrayal and trust in healthcare organizations. Multidisciplinary Healthcare, 10, 133-144.
30 minutes: Discussion of Readings A and B
30 minutes: Discussion of Reading B
30 minutes: Discussion of Reading C and D
30 minutes: Discussion of Reading A and E
30 minutes: Discussion of student’s disguised cases, or further discussion of readings A, B, C, D and E if no case material available.
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