Traumagenic States Model

The Traumagenic States Model was developed by James (1990) to describe the psychological effect of sexual abuse. It includes nine psychological trauma states and provides a framework of understanding the effects of abuse. These states are:
  1. Self-Blame - children tend to blame themselves for events in their lives, rather than look at external causes. Sexual abuse can result in the child victim believing that he is responsible for the abuse and encoding this belief in all emotional, sensory, and body memory.  
  2. Powerlessness - children feel powerless when abused. This powerlessness can convert to dependency. Its opposite, attempting to be powerful through self-destruction, results in behaviors with negative consequences.
  3. Loss and betrayal- children can lose everything because of abuse. They can lose a parent (or both),  home, friends, school, siblings, pets, and everything else they love. If they lose trust in adults, especially in a parent, they may never be able to trust again, others, self, or the possibility of good things happening to them.   
  4. Fragmentation of Bodily Experience - memory is encoded in the senses and in muscles, not just in the mind. A sexual abuse victim may smell an odor or feel a touch that brings a memory and causes her to relive the trauma. The child will be unable to understand what is happening to her.
  5. Stigmatization - children are ashamed of the sexual abuse and feel they are different from others because of it. They feel alienated and isolated. A pervasive sense of low self-worth can infect their adult lives in negative ways.
  6. Eroticism- a sexually abused child identifies as sexually erotic and knows how to sexually please adults. The child has been eroticized, and her self-worth may be tied to this self-perception of value as a sexual being. She may engage in high-risk sexual behaviors as an adult. 
  7. Destructiveness - the sexually abused child may act out in ways that result in rejection and punishment. This will result in increased anger and destructiveness, a pattern that remains into adulthood or until healing occurs.  
  8. Dissociation - dissociation is a coping mechanism that involves lack of presence in the present. The child disappears and goes somewhere else. This may become a habitual way of dealing with painful stimuli. The child may also develop Dissociative Personality Disorder and actually split off into another personality during the abuse. 
  9. Attachment Disorder - when trauma is repeated, the child is unable to form secure attachments in primary relationships. This can result in either over-dependency or an inability to trust and form meaningful relationships.    

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