Send to

Choose Destination
Am Psychol. 2014 Sep;69(6):575-87. doi: 10.1037/a0037564.

Institutional betrayal.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of Oregon.


A college freshman reports a sexual assault and is met with harassment and insensitive investigative practices leading to her suicide. Former grade school students, now grown, come forward to report childhood abuse perpetrated by clergy, coaches, and teachers--first in trickles and then in waves, exposing multiple perpetrators with decades of unfettered access to victims. Members of the armed services elect to stay quiet about sexual harassment and assault during their military service or risk their careers by speaking up. A Jewish academic struggles to find a name for the systematic destruction of his people in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. These seemingly disparate experiences have in common trusted and powerful institutions (schools, churches, military, government) acting in ways that visit harm upon those dependent on them for safety and well-being. This is institutional betrayal. The purpose of this article is to describe psychological research that examines the role of institutions in traumatic experiences and psychological distress following these experiences. We demonstrate the ways in which institutional betrayal has been left unseen by both the individuals being betrayed as well as the field of psychology and introduce means by which to identify and address this betrayal.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for American Psychological Association
Loading ...
Support Center