Before betrayal trauma victims are correctly identified as sufferers of Betrayal Trauma, they are often classified as “codependent”. This harmful and inaccurate diagnosis of victims enables abusers to keep harming women and children and silences their voices.
Read on to learn why you’re not codependent.
Victims of Emotional Abuse Are Not “Codependent”: They Are Seeking Safety
Betrayal Trauma is caused by abuse: any relational betrayal is abusive. Often, Betrayal Trauma victims have little to no control over their own bodies, privacy, finances, and other aspects of their lives. This loss of control leads many women to engage in safety-seeking behaviors. These may include:
- Checking a partner’s computer for pornography usage or other signs of infidelity
- Checking bank accounts to ensure financial security
- Using GPS tracking, private investigators, or other means to find out what their partner is doing
Misguided therapists, clergy, and others will observe these behaviors and classify victims as “codependent” rather than as abuse victims, seeking whatever means will help them to feel safe. When a victim knows what her abuser is doing, or is going to do, she is able to make choices: to stay or leave, to put money aside so that she and her children can buy groceries in the event that he drains the banks accounts, etc. When an abuser continually lies, lives in secrecy, and betrays the family, without support and the safety of boundaries, she often has no other choice but to enlist these “safety-seeking behaviors” (which are NOT signs of codependency).
Labeling Victims of Emotional Abuse as “Codependent” is Harmful
Therapists, clergy, and others create more harm and chaos label victims as “codependent” . It would be akin to telling a victim of a gunshot wound that she is codependent for searching the pockets of the man who shot her for his weapon. She is simply trying to protect herself.
Victims are wrongly counseled to shift their focus from distancing themselves from abuse, to fixing their own (false) flaws. This enables the abuser to keep on abusing and encourages the victim stay in an abusive relationship without effective boundaries.
But What If I Am Actually Codependent?
It takes mental, emotional, and physical energy to get to safety. Don’t waste your precious energy on trying to “fix” yourself… yet.
After you have successfully separated yourself from abuse, you may find that you are still concerned about possibly being codependent.
Wait until you are truly safe and have re-established your sense of worth. At that point, a trauma-sensitive, abuse-informed professional can help you unpack any personal issues you wish to work through.
However, most women find that when they’ve achieved safety from abuse, many perceived “character flaws” don’t actually exist and were merely a consequence of living with abuse.
BTR.ORG Supports Betrayal Trauma Victims
At BTR, we understand how difficult it is to live with and heal from betrayal trauma.
We provide many resources for abuse victims. The free BTR podcast is a powerful tool. Tune in to hear stories from other women who understand what you’re going through.
And remember, you are not alone.