scapegoat as family betrayal

Scapegoating as Family Betrayal (Video)

Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA
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Many of you who follow my work on family scapegoating abuse (FSA) are already aware that there’s different types of trauma responses that are actually survival responses for a child or adult child in a dysfunctional or narcissistic family system.

These trauma responses include the ‘freeze’ response; the ‘fawn’ or ‘submit’ (i.e., being quick to appease and people please) response; the ‘flight’ response; the ‘fight’ response, and a fifth trauma response that Dr Janina Fisher identifies in her workbook, Transforming the Living Legacy of Trauma, the ‘cry for help’ response.

Betrayal Trauma Theory (BTT) was introduced in 1994 by Dr Jennifer Freyd (who some of you know through the acronym she created, DARVO: deny attack reverse victim and offender) and I do have a chapter called Scapegoating as Family Betrayal in my book, Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed, in which I discuss the connection between betrayal trauma, complex trauma, and dissociation as related to family scapegoating abuse and family scapegoating trauma.

Abuse of any type can result in the victim experiencing complex trauma and betrayal trauma, which can in turn lead to dissociation. Dissociation is a protective mechanism that occurs when we unconsciously ‘split’ off traumatic experiences so we can tolerate and exist within a reality that might be otherwise overwhelmingly painful and too much to bear.

In Dr Freyd’s research on Betrayal Trauma Theory, she specifically explored how betrayal acts as a precursor to dissociation. Any form of child abuse inherently includes betrayal trauma because those that the child most depended on to care for them and to love them broke their trust.

Specifically: If you were scapegoated in childhood, the silent (unspoken) contract of, “I’m your parent, you’re my child, I’m going to protect you, I’m going to nurture you, I’m going to be there for you, I’m going to embrace you, accept you unconditionally and support you as you grow and help you to become a developed healthy self” was broken. And yet, you are dependent on those who betrayed your trust to survive. This is the untenable position the ‘scapegoat child’ in a dysfunctional or narcissistic family system finds themselves in.

Next week, I’ll be publishing a guest post from Dr Erin Watson entitled The Dual Layers of Betrayal Trauma For Survivors of Family Scapegoating Abuse that you won’t want to miss, so if you haven’t yet subscribed to receive this newsletter, you can do so here.

To learn more about family scapegoating and betrayal trauma, you can watch my latest video.


About Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

Rebecca C. Mandeville coined the research-supported terms 'family scapegoating abuse' (FSA) and 'family scapegoat trauma' (FST) and is a recognized thought leader in understanding the consequences of being in the family 'identified patient' or 'scapegoat' role. Her best-selling book, 'Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed', is the first book ever written on FSA. Rebecca is now working on a book of reflections with affirmations to support adult survivors in their FSA recovery. Rebecca serves as a YouTube Health Partner via her channel Beyond Family Scapegoating Abuse and is also active on Instagram and Facebook.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Please understand that it is not always feasible or safe to share your posts and information on our social media. Too many abusers live there, and I cannot risk that. But I appreciate your wisdom and sensible/sensitive approach to family scapegoating and abuse. Thank you!

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