Stage three of the Stockholm Syndrome
is hope and gratitude. Victims convince themselves that the perpetrator is good. If the abuser does something kind for the victim, then he must have a good side. The victim bonds to that positive side of the abuser and remains in denial of the other danger-filled side. This fosters a sense of hope and gratitude. The victim will pay attention to the abuser and begin to see the world from his perspective. If the victim then tries to keep him happy, she may assure her safety and life.
Bonding to this perceived good side of the perpetrator causes the victim to lose sight of her own beliefs, values, and sense of self. The perspective of the perpetrator becomes the sense of self of the victim, and the victim sees herself as the perpetrator sees her. If this occurs in a child, this may be the only sense of self that the child has. The victim develops a belief that the threatening individual is not bad. He is not evil. With this belief in place, the victim suppresses thoughts of danger. When victims reach this point, they may begin to think that the belief system, behaviors, and choices of the perpetrator are kindly in nature. In effect - the perpetrator is good. This belief contributes to a sense of safety and well-being. This is one of the reasons that victims do not run or try to escape. It is also one of the reasons that child victims
of sexual abuse
do not tell
. They believe that the perpetrator
is really not bad.
Bonding with the abuser is now seen as a common phenomenon by professionals who work with victims and hostages and may be a universal survival strategy for victims of interpersonal violence. This bonding is referred to as traumatic bonding or a betrayal bond
. Betrayal traumas are social traumas that violate the trust agreement between individuals. Dissociation
is a central mechanism in betrayal trauma theory, allowing victims to be unaware of information that may threaten the relationship with a trusted other or someone upon whom they depend for survival. The betrayal bond facilitates continued attachment to the perpetrator. Hostages, concentration camp prisoners, cult members, abused children, and battered women
all share this dynamic that occurs in a powerless, helpless
Psychological processes underlying the Stockholm Syndrome include disbelief and minimization of the event by victims, suppression of anger, dependence on the person committing the violence, taking on the viewpoint of the abuser, and mental health problems (e.g., depression, apathy, PTSD). The intermittent reward provided by the abuser, who is sometimes cruel and violent and sometimes kind and nice, reinforces the bond (i.e., cycle of violence). In attempts to please the abuser, the victim may take on certain characteristics, such as compliance, denial, passivity, dependence, and fondness for the abuser. Four factors that dispose a victim to respond in this way are:
perceived threat to physical or psychological safety, perceived small kindness from the abuser, isolation, and perceived inability to escape or change the situation.