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The Student Circle Research Committee is responsible for providing student focused research and scholarship information to Student Circle Members, as well as information that is relevant for the Journal of Black Psychology (JBP). This involves promoting student involvement in research and publication, and acting as a liaison between the JBP and the Student Circle. Interested persons should send a brief paragraph expressing their interest and experience to Kierra at scresearch@abpsi.org.

Dissertation: Cultural Betrayal Trauma Theory
Jennifer M. Gómez, M.S.
University of Oregon


Interpersonal trauma, such as physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, has deleterious effects on mental health (e.g., Gómez, Smith, & Freyd, 2014). Outcomes of trauma may further be affected by the sociocultural context (e.g., Brown, 2008; Bryant-Davis, 2005). In the dissertation, I first provide a review of psychological theories of trauma: the fear paradigm, the shattered assumptions paradigm (as detailed in DePrince & Freyd, 2002), betrayal trauma theory (e.g., Freyd, 1996), and institutional betrayal (e.g., Smith & Freyd, 2014). I then briefly detail the trauma literature on ethnic minorities (e.g., Bryant-Davis et al., 2009), with an emphasis on the importance of contextual factors. Based on this literature, I introduce cultural betrayal trauma theory, which is a framework for empirically examining the effects of interpersonal trauma on minority populations. Specifically, in cultural betrayal trauma theory, I include interpersonal trauma in conjunction with discrimination to examine mental health outcomes. For example, in cultural betrayal trauma theory, I propose that if a Black woman is sexually assaulted by a Black man, the outcomes of this ethno-cultural betrayal trauma, such as PTSD, are impacted by both the victim and perpetrator experiencing discrimination in society. The purpose of the empirical study is to test cultural betrayal trauma theory in a sample of ethnic minority students attending a predominantly White university. Participants (N = 296) completed a 60-minute online questionnaire. Over half of the sample reported experiencing interpersonal trauma, with 43% of participants reporting at least one ethno-cultural betrayal trauma-abuse perpetrated by someone of the same ethnicity. Ethno-cultural betrayal trauma was associated with abuse outcomes- dissociation, hallucinations, PTSD, cultural betrayal unawareness, and hypervigilance-and cultural outcomes-trauma-related ethnic identity change, diverse identity changes, internalized prejudice, and (intra)cultural pressure. The dissertation suggests that cultural betrayal trauma theory is a useful framework in examining and understanding outcomes of trauma in minority populations. Links to the dissertation and other work on cultural betrayal trauma theory can be found at http://jmgomez.org.


Brown, L. (2008). Cultural competence in trauma therapy: Beyond the flashback. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Bryant-Davis, T. (2005). Thriving in the wake of trauma: A multicultural guide. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Bryant-Davis, T., Chung, H., Tillman, S., & Belcourt, A. (2009). From the margins to the center: Ethnic minority women and the mental health effects of sexual assault. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 10, 330-357.
DePrince, A. P., & Freyd, J. J. (2002). The harm of trauma: Pathological fear, shattered assumptions, or betrayal. In J. Kauffman (Ed.) Loss of the assumptive world: A theory of traumatic loss. (pp. 71-82). New York: Brunner-Routledge.
Freyd, J. J. (1996). Betrayal trauma: The logic of forgetting childhood abuse. Harvard University Press.
Gómez, J. M. (2016, May 11). Cultural betrayal trauma theory [Dissertation]. Retrieved from http://dynamic.uoregon.edu/jjf/theses/gomez16.pdf
Smith, C.P., & Freyd, J.J. (2014). Institutional betrayal. American Psychologist, 69, 575- 587.