The term institutional betrayal refers to wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals (e.g. sexual assault) committed within the context of the institution. The term “Institutional Betrayal” as connected with betrayal trauma theory was introduced in presentations by Freyd in early 2008and is discussed in more detail in various publications, including in a section starting on page 201 of Platt, Barton, & Freyd (2009) and in a 2013 research report (Smith & Freyd, 2013). Institutional betrayal is a core focus of the book Blind to Betrayal, by Freyd and Birrell, 2013. Currently the most definitive exploration of institutional betrayal is presented in the American Psychologist (Smith & Freyd, 2014). Also see Freyd, 2018 and Smidt & Freyd, 2018.
Institutional betrayal harms in at least two distinct ways: pragmatic and psychological. For instance, damage to citizens from avoidable government failure in managing covid19 is both pragmatic (illness, deaths, increased inequality, economic ruin) and psychological (leading to emotional and physical distress and thus more pragmatic harm).