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and Inflicting Pain
Denial is but one stage of coping with the impossible turn of events. Each victim who copes effectively has a strong will to survive. One may deal with stress by believing he is dreaming, that he will soon wake up and it will be over. Some deal with this stress by withdrawing through sleep; I have interviewed hostages who have slept for over forty-eight hours while captive. Some have fainted, although this is rare.
Some of the denial and repression of fear of the hostages and the transfer of these feelings of fear to the police has a realistic basis. Research has shown that most hostages die or are injured during the police or military assault phase, although this is not to say that the police killed them.
Frequently hostages gradually accept their situation, but find a safety valve in the thought that their fate is not fixed. They view their situation as temporary and are sure that the police will come to their rescue. This gradual change from denial to delusions of reprieve reflects a growing acceptance of the facts. Although the victim accepts that he is a hostage, he believes that freedom will come soon.
If freedom does not immediately relieve the stress, many hostages begin to engage in busy work, work they feel comfortable doing. Some knit, some methodically count and record windows or other hostages, and some reflect upon their past lives. I have never interviewed a former hostage who has not taken stock of his life and vowed to change for the better, thus attempting to take advantage of a second chance at life.
of the Hostage-Taker
In some hostage situations the victims either have been locked in another room or have been in the same room, hooded or tied, gagged and forced to face the wall and away from the subject. This type of interaction occurred frequently during the Hanafi Muslim siege in Washington, D.C., in March 1977. Consciously or unconsciously, the subject has dehumanized his hostage, thereby making it easier to kill him. As long as the hostage is isolated, time is not a factor. The Stockholm Syndrome will not be a force that may save the victims life.
hypothetical question was posed to determine the depth of these victims
feelings toward their captors. Each former hostage was asked what he would do
in a the following situation: A person immediately recognizable as a law enforcement
officer, armed with a shoulder weapon, orders him to lie down. At the same instant
one of his former captors orders him to stand up. When asked what he would do,
the response varied according to the identity of the captor giving the order.
If a captor who had treated him fairly were yelling stand up, he would
stand up. Conversely, if he thought it was the command of the subject who had
verbally abused him, he would obey the law enforcement officer. This would indicate
that the strength of the syndrome is considerable. Even in the face of an armed
officer of the law, the former hostage would offer himself as a human shield for
his captor. As absurd or illogical as this may seem to those who are not familiar
with the Stockholm Syndrome, such behavior has been observed by law enforcement
officers throughout the world and on many different occasions.
Reflection Exercise #6
QUESTION 15: How can a hostage lessen the aggression of a captor? To select and enter your answer go to Answer Booklet.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
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