Bonded to the Abuser: How Victims Make Sense of Childhood Abuse
Here, Baker and Schneiderman provide insight. One explanation is that many of these children are like hostages who have a dependency. As the authors write, “the one who inflicts the pain is the one who can relive the pain.”
This type of bonding, which they refer to as “traumatic bonding,” can happen when a child experiences periods of positive experience alternating with episodes of abuse. By experiencing both positive and extreme negative from a parent, the authors explain, a child can become almost co-dependent. But, Baker and Schneiderman point out, although they compare this to a hostage situation, a child in these cases is different than an actual hostage, in the sense that the child has a pre-existing caregiving relationship with the abuser. So, although for many of us the idea a child bonding with that person may be impossible to fathom, the way that caregiving combines with violence makes separating oneself from the adult very difficult.
In addition, the book explores why survivors often feel the need to understand the reason that they were abused. Baker and Schneiderman write engagingly about this, too. They look at Monica Holloway’s memoir Driving with Dead People, in which Holloway observes her father being social and personable with the neighbors. She wonders why he is so nice to them and yet so terrible to her. Similarly, the authors quote Peter, who says, “I believed it was no more than I deserved and that it was my fault I brought this kind of punishment on myself. I often thought that if only I wasn’t so bad, I would get affection and sympathy