Trauma-coerced attachment

Trauma-coerced attachment, often referred to as trauma bonding, appears to capture the emotional and push-pull of the relationship in R v. Lopez. Though the operational definition of trauma-coerced attachment is often debated, most definitions account for the dynamic relationship between coercive control tactics, intermittent reward and punishment, and the exploitation of the power imbalance between the victim and the perpetrator (Doychak & Raghavan, 2018). Victims who experience this traumatic bond suffer emotional, physical, and mental exploitation, which can impact their safety and well-being (Casassa et al., 2021).

Trauma-coerced attachment (TCA) is a powerful and abusive emotional relationship that is dynamic and constantly changing, and the attachment can persist long after the relationship ends (Doychak & Raghavan, 2018). TCA compels the victim to submit to continued exploitation and to protect the perpetrator despite having every reason to do the opposite (Casassa et al., 2021). As well, victims who experience TCA are more likely to return to the perpetrator or to the sex-trafficking environment (Chambers et al., 2022), which makes it difficult for police officers to help victims exit or to see a case through to its conclusion in court. Medical advances in brain mapping, understanding of neurobiological responses to stress, and ongoing advancements in psychology provide insights into why victims sometimes behave and perceive their situation the way they do.