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What is Betrayal Trauma?

Updated: Dec 12, 2021

As community members working for non-profits and grassroots organizations- conflict with co-workers, peers, comrades, and fellow activists is an expected experience. Generative conflict allows us to stay in connection with each other while moving together through tension and misalignment, however all experiences of conflict are subjective and informed by our trauma responses. Generative conflict may not be experienced by all parties as productive or generative of new ideas. For some folks , intra-community ( conflict within and between members of our own communities) may be traumatic, or feel like a repeat of family trauma experiences. Betrayal trauma in particular is a form of relational trauma that "denotes a social dimension of trauma in which the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’s trust or well- being”. ( Freyd, 2008) The Movement for Black Lives and international calls for system change during the Covid-19 pandemic have produced new demands for justice and accountability within activist communities. Some activists have experienced loss of connection, relationships, and a sense of support due to intra-community conflict and anti-blackness. Supporting BIPOC social justice activists entails understanding the specific conditions that contribute to experiences of relational trauma. Betrayal trauma, and institutional betrayal more specifically may be forms of relational and structural traumas impacting the health and wellness of advocacy and organizing communities. More information on betrayal trauma can be found here under InfoGraphics.


Dutt, Mallika. March, 2020. Generative Conflict: a look at conflict (problem) and tension(polarity).[ Video]

Freyd, J.J. (2021). What is a Betrayal Trauma? What is Betrayal Trauma Theory? Retrieved December 8, 2021 from

Holloway, K. (2021, December 8). Our 'racial reckoning' is turning out to be a white lie. The Nation. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from

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