If you are caught in a kidnapping or hostage situation the most dangerous time will be is the first ten to fifteen minutes as the kidnappers will be very nervous and will have to let everyone know they are in control. If you’re being kidnapped you can expect to get hurt, pain makes people comply.
In a group kidnapping or hostage taking it would be a good professional practice for the criminals to identify any group leaders or potential trouble-makers and execute them in front of the other hostages, as would give them the clear message of who was in control. There is also a high risk to those who have health problems such as high blood pressure or heart conditions; you need to keep calm, I have heard numerous stories of people dying from heart attacks and suffering strokes whilst being kidnapped.
Once it is clear that the kidnapping has been successful, and you cannot safely escape you do not want to offer any resistance, just do as you are told. You can now expect to be blind-folded, bound and searched for cellular phones, identification, weapons and valuables. If you have a weapon, you should have a good excuse ready for having it. It is possible to conceal weapons and escape equipment from a searcher, which we’ll talk about in a later chapter.
You should not carry any security, police, military ID cards or related items as these will draw attention to you and could lead to you being made an example of. I have told clients who are going to the Middle East to join a couple of Muslim associations and carry the association membership cards and literature with them, hopefully if they are kidnapped this will lead to more favorable treatment. This tactic can be applied in most places, pretend to have sympathies with the local bad guys, it’s all about you staying alive!
When you are being moved try to establish which direction you’re being taken. So, when you are living or visiting an area you should identify all prominent geographical features and objects, then if your kidnapped the incline of the terrain, speed you’re travelling or any noises such as rivers or trains etc. could give an indication to your location.
When you can start to get the descriptions of the kidnappers, if they are masked, remember things like any jewelry they may be wearing, descriptions of their hands, like scars, or nail lengths, what they smell like, anything which could help identify them. Never look at the kidnappers faces as this can be taken as sign of over confidence on your part and overt attempt of you trying to identify them.
If the kidnappers are professional after the violence of the abduction, they will remain silent and assign one of their group members to speak to you when absolutely necessary, if at all. Now you can expect to be kept bound in isolation, which for a lot of people is more psychologically difficult to deal with than physical violence.
You never want to appear to be a threat to your kidnappers and should comply with what they want you to do. This may be the opposite advice you would expect when you’re in a life-threatening situation but suffering from broken ribs or a fractured skull will severely limit your ability to successfully escape. Think about it, who are the kidnappers going to put more security on, someone who is putting up a fight or someone who is having a nervous breakdown, you need to preserve your energy, look after your health to able to survive or escape.
If you don’t cause any problems for the kidnappers they should start to relax, this is when you should try creating personal relationships with them without overstepping any boundaries and always being aware of Stockholm Syndrome.
Stockholm & Lima Syndrome
Everyone who has a possible risk of being or dealing with those that have been kidnapped or involved in a hostage situation should understand what Stockholm Syndrome is and how it affects people.
Consider this scenario: You have been kidnapped and have been kept handcuffed in a dark room, the only contact you have with anyone is when you are fed twice a day and taken to the bathroom in the morning.
The kidnapper who oversees you comes across as being gentle and soft-spoken, they happy to speak to you briefly, when they deliver your food, take you to the bathroom and are also kind enough not to put your handcuffs on too tightly. The total contact you have with them be less than ten minutes a day but after a week, you will start to look forward to being fed, just for the opportunity to talk with someone who is sympathetic to your situation.
This kidnapper would end up becoming the only friend you had. Now how would you describe this captor after your release? As kind, considerate, friendly etc.; forgetting the fact that they were so kind to kidnap you and kept you handcuffed in a darkroom for several months!
Stockholm Syndrome is a recognized condition of which signs can be seen in many former hostages. It’s named after Stockholm, Sweden, where in 1973 a bank robbery that went wrong lead to a hostage situation. Two-armed bank robbers ended up holding four people hostages, for six days in the vault of the bank. The criminals were aggressive towards the hostages and at one point put ropes around their necks and forced them to stand on chairs, if they fell asleep or slipped they would have hung themselves. The conditions in the vault were bad, everyone had to use trash cans as toilets, there was no food and limited water for the first two days.
Even in these conditions a relationship managed to develop between the hostages and the criminals. At one stage a hostage could have escaped but did not, after the incident was over one hostage who gave a statement to police claimed they, “I felt like a traitor”, another described the captors as “very kind” and one of the female hostages admitted to helping one of the captors to masturbate while the others were asleep. After the incident was over it was reported that female hostages stayed in contact with and visited the criminals when they were in jail.
There are many cases where hostages have been kept in very bad conditions and only go on to speak very well of their captors. Whenever you see a news article of where a hostage has been released from captivity see what they say about their captors, chances are their comments will be positive and they feel no ill will.
A major concern for law enforcement rescue teams is situations where hostages will try to protect their captors and to help them escape during hostage recovery raids. When dealing with professional kidnappers they will try to brain wash their hostages into sympathizing with them, I have seen this being used mostly by Guerrilla groups in Latin America who want released hostages to speak well of them and their cause.
Now the reverse side of the Stockholm Syndrome is the Lima Syndrome. Lima Syndrome is named after the hostage situation in Lima, Peru, in 1996 at the Japanese ambassador’s residence.
Hundreds of people who were attending a party at the residence were taken hostage by communist terrorists. The terrorists released most of the hostages, including the most valuable ones within a few hours apparently on compassionate grounds. I tell my clients that they want to be aware of the danger of Stockholm Syndrome and to use the Lima Syndrome.
You should build a relationship with your kidnappers, help and sympathize with them and get them to sympathize with you. If they pity you and no longer see you as a threat you should be better treated and have less security placed on you, which will hopefully lead to an opportunity to escape.
This is an excrept from Kidnap & Ransom: The Essentials of Kidnapping Prevention. If you are intersted in the book, please follow this link.