KIDNAP is not like crime against property. It is devious, cruel and indifferent treatment of the most fundamental human group, the family. A kidnapping causes emotional turmoil to family members. Minute by minute and hour by hour, they are tossed between hope and despair as they struggle with sentiments of guilt, hate, and helplessness. The nightmare may go on for days, weeks, months or, sometimes, even years.
In their relentless quest for money, kidnappers capitalize on family feelings. Some kidnappers, on the other hand, attempt to curry favor with their victims.. Most victims, however, are locked up with little concern shown for their physical or hygienic needs. Many are brutally mistreated. In any case, the victim must always suffer the horror of wondering what is going to happen to him.
Coping With the Trauma
Even after victims are released, they may have lingering emotional scars. A Swedish nurse who was kidnapped in Somalia expressed this opinion: “One thing is more important than anything else. You have to talk to friends and relatives and get professional help if you need it.”
Therapists have developed a method to help such victims. In several short sessions, the victims analyze their experiences with professional assistance before meeting with their families and getting back to a normal life. “Therapy given shortly after the event reduces the risk of permanent damage,” says Rigmor Gillberg, a Red Cross crisis therapy expert.
Victims and their families are not the only ones touched by kidnappings. Fear of kidnapping can halt tourism and slow down investments; it also creates a sense of insecurity in society.
Reasons for the Surge
Experts suggest a host of reasons for the recent surge. The desperate economic situation in some areas is one. A relief worker said: “The best way to get money is this famous tool, kidnapping.”
Similarly, the use of more efficient measures against bank robbery and crackdowns on drug dealing have caused criminals to take up kidnapping as a substitute source of income. Mike Ackerman, an expert on kidnappings, explained: “As we make crimes against property more difficult in all societies, it forces crimes against people.” Publicizing high ransom payments could also induce potential kidnappers.
Motives Not Always the Same
Most kidnappers want money and nothing but money. Ransom demands vary from just a handful of money as ransom.
On the other hand, some kidnappers have used their victims to bargain for publicity, food, medicine, radios, and cars as well as new schools, roads, and hospitals.
What To Do If You Are Kidnapped
Those who have studied the subject offer the following suggestions to people who may be kidnapped.
- Be cooperative; avoid obstinate behavior. Antagonistic hostages are more often subjected to harsh treatment, and they run a greater risk of being killed or singled out for punishment.
- Do not panic. Keep in mind that most victims survive the kidnapping.
- Devise a system to keep track of time.
- Try to establish some sort of daily routine.
- Exercise, even though your opportunities to move may be limited.
- Be observant; try to memorize details, sounds, and smells. Learn details about your kidnappers.
- Engage in small talk if possible and try to establish contact. If the kidnappers see you as an individual, they will be less likely to harm or kill you.
- Make them aware of your needs in a polite manner.
- Never try to negotiate your own ransom.
- If you find yourself in the middle of a rescue attempt, drop to the floor and wait passively as events unfold.