Signs of trauma bonding

The main sign that a person has bonded with an abuser is that they try to justify or defend the abuse. They may also:

  • agree with the abusive person’s reasons for treating them badly
  • try to cover for the abusive person
  • argue with or distance themselves from people trying to help, such as friends, family members, or neighbors
  • become defensive or hostile if someone intervenes and attempts to stop the abuse, such as a bystander or police officer
  • be reluctant or unwilling to take steps to leave the abusive situation or break the bond

A person bonded with their abuser might say, for example:

  • “He is only like that because he loves me so much — you would not understand.”
  • “She is under a lot of pressure at work, she cannot help it. She will make it up to me later.”
  • “I will not leave him, he is the love of my life. You are just jealous.”
  • “It is my fault — I make them angry.”

It is worth noting that these feelings of attachment do not necessarily end when the person leaves the harmful situation. A person may still feel loyal or loving toward the person who abused them or feel tempted to return.

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