Traumagenic Dynamics Model

Finkelhor and Browne (1988) developed a comprehensive model for understanding the trauma of sexual abuse and its short and long-term effects. The emotional and mental orientation of a child in his world is disturbed by the event of sexual abuse. The view of self and view of the world are altered in the mind of the child. The ability to experience and express emotions is disturbed. The Traumagenics Model is process-oriented, rather than event-oriented, conceptualizing sexual abuse as an ongoing, dynamic process in the child. Trauma dynamics are present before the sexual abuse, during the sexual abuse, and after the sexual abuse. These dynamics affect every aspect of the victim and are umbrella categories under which short-term  and long-term consequences can be clustered. The four dynamics present with sexual abuse are:
  • Traumatic Sexualization - the child's sexuality is altered and shaped by the event of sexual abuse. Processes affecting this include: rewards for sexual behaviors, focus on certain body parts, confusion about sexual behavior and morality, and fear of sex. This dynamic affects future sexual behavior. Sexual acting out, promiscuity, and sexually abusive behaviors are potential effects.
  • Betrayal - betrayal can be felt by the child regarding both the perpetrator, who has destroyed her trust, or the mother or other adult who was not protective. Abuse by a family member results in the greatest sense of betrayal. If disclosure occurs, and the child is not believed, feelings of betrayal are increased. If the child is blamed for the abuse, feelings of betrayal are greater. If the mother does not believe her child and is not willing to protect her, the greatest sense of betrayal is felt by the child. Betrayal results in depression, anger, reduced trust, and increased vulnerability to future abuse.
  • Powerlessness - the child is unable to exert his will and get what he wants (not to be abused) and feels the threat of harm with no ability to alter the situation. The personal space of the child is violated. She is invaded psychologically, emotionally, and physically, and is trapped and helpless. If force and violence are involved, the sense of powerlessness increases. This results in the child feeling he has no control over his life. Effects include: nightmares, somatic complaints, depression, running away, delinquency, or becoming an aggressor or perpetrator of physical or sexual violence.
  • Stigmatization - the child incorporates the self-perception that she is bad, guilty, and responsible for the abuse. The perpetrator makes statements to the child that create these beliefs and reinforces them with shaming and blaming comments. The perpetrator's behaviors, bribes, and rewards combine in the child to self-stigmatize.Comments made by family members and labels heard in the media or in the community influence the child. The self-image and self-worth is distorted and destroyed.