Editor’s note: Resource Perspectives features articles written by members of Lovefraud’s Professional Resources Guide.
Rebecca Potter works as a licensed mental health counselor in West Palm Beach, Florida. She can be reached at: [email protected]
Surviving betrayal and trauma
By Rebecca Potter
I recently attended a workshop by Dr. Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., author of The Betrayal Bond. I was shocked by the denial of the psychological community regarding the trauma experienced by survivors of emotional and sexual trauma. I took my worn and used copy of The Betrayal Bond to Dr. Carnes for his signature. He signed my copy and asked, “Why used?”
Dr. Carnes’ work has helped me surface from the web of pain and confusion developed while trying to safely escape an emotionally, verbally, financially abusive husband. When I left, I was further damaged by my exposure to the legal system and Family Court. There was no place that I could go to receive treatment, attorneys took advantage of me, insurance companies lied and hid fraud that they had committed with my former mate. Need Dr. Carnes ask why my copy was used and battered, somewhat like me?
Just get over it and move on
This was the attitude I faced when I tried to find professional legal help. The pain in my body was so real, yet invisible to anyone else. I couldn’t explain the terror that I felt when I had to sit in the same room with my former husband: The intense emotion I felt when he told the courtroom lies and the court believed those lies without evidence. The permission that the Court gave to him, which allowed him to further abuse me and how I was ignored and told, “Just get over it and move on.”
The impact of sexual addiction induced trauma
The field of treatment and intervention for disorders related to compulsive sexual behavior and sexual addiction is a new emerging field. Research has focused on the sexual addict, creating models for diagnosis and treatment, while the partners of sex addicts have been neglected and ignored.
Current clinical treatment models prefer to address the partner of a sex addict as a codependent or co-addict, which basically implies that the partner has their own disease termed: co-addiction or codependency. Codependency is in a category of a process addiction—an addiction to certain mood-altering behaviors, such as a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively care-taking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life. Other process addictions include: gambling, food, shopping, spending and hoarding.
The clinical needs of partners of sexual addicts continue to be ignored, minimized, obscured and gravely misunderstood. Partners actually often experience clinically significant sex addiction induced trauma. These traumatic symptoms are a result from the direct impact of sex addiction:
- chronic patterns of sexual acting out
- relational perpetration
- emotional abuse
- psychological manipulation
Traditional therapists continue to ignore the symptoms of trauma. These partners often present with symptoms that match rape trauma syndrome and post traumatic stress disorder. Sex addiction-induced trauma is a highly specific type of trauma that involves symptoms of fear and panic of potential disease and contamination, fear of child safety and potential of child molestation, social isolation, embarrassment, shame, guilt and intense relational rupture and attachment injuries.
Neglecting the treatment of trauma and focusing instead on co-addiction and codependency are inadequate and clinically contra-indicated, wrought with moral and ethical challenges. Partners and spouses of sex addicts are a profoundly and clinically traumatized population requiring informed care and ethical treatment.
I know, because I experienced similar trauma. Recovery has been a long road. I still experience flashbacks and have adrenal fatigue when my symptoms are triggered. I have started women’s and men’s relationship recovery groups. We meet each week to support each other with the withdrawal of leaving a chaotic relationship and help each other process the deep brain injuries from the exploitation and trauma.
I also suggest that survivors participate in online support groups if they are not able to find a trauma therapist in their area. One online group : www.adultchildrenofalcholics.org. There are phone meetings daily. The websites will list the phone meetings. The pain that you are experiencing is real and must be processed with those who understand trauma.
I look at my marriage as an educational process that I needed to experience to assist others in healing. Yes, my ex will marry others and commit the same abuse. There will be many women and children harmed by his manipulation.