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What is relational trauma?

When trauma occurs within a relationship that is needed by the victim

A lot of people think of trauma as belonging to survivors of war, car accidents, crime, or natural disasters.  While this is certainly true, there is a more subtle type of trauma that has likely visited and impacted many more people – relational trauma.  In this case, the trauma occurs within a relationship that is needed by the victim. 

"Relational trauma, often called attachment injuries, occurs when one person betrays, abandons, or refuses to provide support for another person with whom he or she has developed an attachment bond."

Dr. Judith Herman calls relational trauma; “trauma, particularly trauma inflicted on one person by another, constitutes relational trauma and is characterized by a “violation of human connection" (Herman, 1992). Dr. Barbara Steffens, a leading partner trauma specialist states “Relational trauma, often called attachment injuries, occurs when one person betrays, abandons, or refuses to provide support for another person with whom he or she has developed an attachment bond" (Steffens, Means, 2009).


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© 2021 by Michelle D. Roberts, Relational Trauma Recovery Center.