Development of Trauma Bonding Measure in the Context of Commercial Sexual Exploitation, by Joan A. Reid
Lunchtime conference, June 15, 2022, by Joan A. Reid, Ph.D., LMHC, Associate Professor and Director of the USF Trafficking in Persons Research Lab, University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus
Summary : The devastating impacts of trauma bonding on survivors of sex trafficking have been repeatedly observed by researchers and practitioners alike. Labeled “the super glue of commercial sexual exploitation”, trauma bonding prevents survivors from exiting exploitive environments and facilitates a toxic cycle of repeated exploitation.
The psychological phenomenon of trauma bonding is a byproduct of interpersonal trauma whereby the perpetrator elicits fear in the victim that is experienced by the survivor as gratitude for being allowed to survive. The general phenomenon of survivors developing emotional attachments to their abusers or captors has been commonly observed in situations of sex trafficking, intimate partner violence, child abuse, hostage taking, and cults. Despite empirical evidence of trauma bonding among survivors of sex trafficking, no measure of trauma bonding has been developed, tested, or standardized. Without a reliable and standardized measure, it is not possible to assess trauma bonding among survivors of sex trafficking or evaluate treatment effectiveness. Our project aims to elaborate and validate such a measure guided by an advisory group comprised of survivors of sex trafficking, survivor-practitioners, and trauma specialists.