A Workshop with Professor Jennifer Freyd

Institutional Betrayal and Institutional Courage

Charting a course for organisational safety after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Jennifer J. Freyd, PhD, is currently a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and a Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon.

Freyd is a widely published and nationally-renowned scholar known for her theories of betrayal trauma, institutional betrayal, institutional courage, and DARVO (Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender). She researches these topics in the context of institutional behavior, sexual violence, discrimination on the basis of gender, minority status, and sexual orientation, as well as disclosures of abuse.

The author or co-author of over 200 articles and op-eds, including the Harvard Press award-winning book Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse. Her most recent book is Blind to Betrayal and pulls together 20 years of research in this increasingly important area. In 2014, Jennifer was invited to the White House twice to discuss her research on sexual assault and institutional betrayal.

Jennifer has received numerous awards including being named a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, an Erskine Fellow at The University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She currently serves as the Editor of The Journal of Trauma & Dissociation.

About this workshop


This one day workshop is an opportunity for all of us who work with vulnerable children to explore what it really means to build safe organisations following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

It is time for a renewed focus on building our capacity as a community with new conversations and fresh evidence informed skills and strategies.

Jennifer’s workshop offers different insights into how organisations need to evolve. We all have a great deal to learn from her two decades of research into betrayal trauma and more recently institutional courage.

Workshop Details


The workshop will explore the important evidence that draws on the research that Professor Freyd has undertaken over the past twenty years. Specifically, it will cover the following concepts and principles:

Betrayal trauma
A betrayal trauma occurs when someone you trust and/or someone who has power over you mistreats you. For instance, it is a betrayal trauma when a member of the clergy sexually abuses a child involved with church activity. Her research shows that betrayal traumas are toxic. They are associated with measurable harm, both physical and mental.

Institutional betrayal
Institutional betrayal, developed from betrayal trauma theory, occurs when the institution you trust or depend upon mistreats you. It can be overt but it can also be less obvious, for instance, a failure to protect you when protection is a reasonable expectation. Her research shows that institutional betrayal is also related to measurable harm —again both mental and physical.

Betrayal blindness
Betrayal blindness, a key concept of betrayal trauma theory, is the unawareness, not-knowing, and forgetting exhibited by people towards betrayal. Victims, perpetrators, and witnesses may display betrayal blindness in order to preserve relationships, institutions, and social systems upon which they depend.

Institutional courage
Institutional courage is the antidote to institutional betrayal. It includes institutional accountability and transparency, as when institutions respond well to disclosures and when institutions conduct anonymous surveys of victimization within the institution and then use the data to become healthier.

DARVO stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender—a perpetrator strategy. The perpetrator may Deny the behaviour, Attack the individual doing the confronting, and Reverse the roles of Victim and Offender, so that the perpetrator adopts the victim role and accuses the true victim of being an offender. This can occur when an actually guilty perpetrator assumes the role of “falsely accused” and attacks the accuser’s credibility and blames the accuser of being the perpetrator of a false accusation. Institutional DARVO occurs when DARVO (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender) is committed by an institution (or with institutional complicity) as when police charge rape victims with lying. Institutional DARVO is a particularly aggressive form of institutional betrayal and, if common, is an indicator that an organization is not operating at its healthy potential.

Disclosure and response
Jennifer has researched how people disclose difficult events and how those disclosures are handled.  Response to disclosure can have a profound impact on the well-being of the person telling about a difficult event and it can impact the whole organisation. She developed research-based listening skills for improving the experience of disclosure.

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