C.R writes: By now we’ve all heard about the emotionally overwhelming escape of three young women who were kidnapped ten years ago—Amanda Berry when she was 16, Gina DeJesus at 14, and Michele Knight at 20.
This is an incredible story and reminded me right away of Elizabeth Smart and others who had a big chunk of their lives stolen by, well, monsters I’d call them.
Naturally, the negativistas out there are waxing antagonistic about the victims and buzzing about whether or not the girls missed opportunities to escape before now.
It sure doesn’t sound like it.
From rescuer Charles Ramsey , these young women (and Amanda’s daughter, born in captivity) were completely hidden from neighborhood eyes. No one had the least idea the three brothers who held them captive were doing so. Mr. Ramsey even describes eating together with the Castro brothers and the fact that he had no idea, whatsoever, that the neighbors’ house was a prison.
Let’s be clear: Even if the girls/women did have a “physical” opportunity to escape, they may not have had an emotional one.
Stockholm Syndrome or capture bonding, describes a psychological state and doesn’t seem all that difficult to parse from a layperson’s point of view (mine, Richard’s not here today.)
A captive (such as Amanda) may forced to be physically close to her kidnapper because, horrifically, he rapes her.
She most likely relies on him to bring her food, and probably medication, toiletries, and other necessary items. Maybe he is the one who determines whether or not she may bathe or use the toilet.
Although prisoners may bond with each other, bonding with a person in power/control, the one who is able to improve conditions, makes sense from a survival point of view.
Perhaps the reasons for bonding or identifying with or even protecting a captor or abuser may begin consciously, but after some time, they become ingrained. It is frustrating to mental health professionals, clergy and family members, for example, when abused women go back to or even defend their abusers. But this identification has become part of how they see their world, it is impossible for them to “snap” out of it.
We know that spouses and sometimes children of alcoholics, drug abusers, and violent offenders sometimes collude to protect and defend the guilty party. In many cases this is labeled (extreme) co-dependency.
Is Stockholm Syndrome possibly a radical type of co-dependency? (Not sure what the professionals say, please comment if you like.)
We don’t yet know the full extent of the trauma the four endured nor do we know the full extent of the emotional (and physical) damage these men caused.
Anyway, this story is at once horrific and reaffirming. I can’t stop thinking about how these girls, especially Gina and Amanda and Amanda’s daughter, spent ten formative years in captivity.* It’s very heartening, when you think about it, that the urge for freedom, for life, was greater than the power of the Castro brothers.
Thank God they were rescued, thank God Amanda Berry reached out to Charles Ramsey in a bid to escape.
*UPDATE: I don’t mean to imply that anyone’s suffering was greater than anyone else’s. We just learned of the abuse Michelle suffered. We don’t even know the full story yet. However, I am upset about the extra-dimension of horror of girls spending their formative years growing up in these conditions.
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Last reviewed: 9 May 2013