SNATCHED–Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer
by K.J. Howe
Kidnapping has captured the imagination of Hollywood. Halle Berry fights for the return of her daughter in Kidnap, a mama lion ready to defend her cub at any cost. Taylor Shilling engages in a cat-and-mouse game when she hires a company to abduct her in Take Me. And comedic geniuses Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer go off the grid when mother and daughter are kidnapped in Snatched, an outrageously funny jungle adventure.
But kidnapping is no laughing matter. With over 40,000 reported cases a year, it has become an international crisis, one that is appearing daily in the news. With spring break season upon us, it’s critical to be aware of your personal safety, especially if you’re traveling to one of the world’s kidnapping hotspots.
After researching and working with some of the best hostage negotiators in the country and abroad while writing my novel The Freedom Broker, I can offer advice to Amy and Goldie—and others—during a kidnapping. If you ever have the misfortune of being abducted, it’s critical to be prepared for every eventuality. In fact, following the lessons in these five points could be key to your survival:
1 When you’re first kidnapped, remain calm and offer no resistance. The abduction is one of the most dangerous moments during a kidnapping, so your captors will be on edge. They will immediately want to establish their dominance, so be prepared for harsh or forceful treatment. To maintain control, your captors might also drug, blindfold, or gag you. Don’t panic, they want to keep you alive and healthy so they can secure your ransom. If you are able, try to remember the details of your journey so you have a sense of where you are being held.
“Never try to negotiate for yourself while being held captive. Know that despite what the kidnappers may say, your family and/or employer is working diligently on your behalf to effect your safe and timely release.” Gary Noesner, former FBI Hostage Negotiator
2 While in captivity, try to gain the respect of your captors—without directly challenging them—by asking for small luxuries like extra food or toilet paper. You want the kidnappers to see you as a person rather than a dehumanized victim. Bond with them so you will receive better treatment. To maintain your strength, eat and drink everything you are given. Establish a routine, as you may be in captivity for a long time. Keep yourself clean and exercise every day. Boredom is your enemy, so keep your mind active by taking on a mental project, like building your dream house or writing a book.
“Humanize yourself and build a rapport with your captors. Start small with getting different foods, and build up from there.” Peter Moore, former hostage held almost 1000 days in Iraq
Maintaining hope is critical during a kidnapping. Remember that your loved ones will be working hard for your release. Remain positive knowing the vast majority of hostages survive. This is not the time to be demanding and difficult. Try to blend in with other captives and avoid being confrontational.
“It is extremely rare for a hostage in a kidnap for ransom case to be killed—it becomes a bad business model for the kidnappers. Their goal is to obtain money, plain and simple, and that is less likely when they kill the hostage. If they killed a hostage after securing the money, future victim families will stop paying money, seeing it as ineffective.” Gary Noesner, former FBI hostage negotiator
4 If you are attempting an escape, plan a route before you leave. Once you commit to your course of action, don’t hesitate. Act with speed and aggression, and make your way to a previously identified safe haven or secure location. If you are caught, your kidnappers may make an example of you to dissuade other escape attempts.
“If you choose to escape, then you must be totally committed—think it through and prepare yourself now, as later may be too late.” Dr. Frank Grimm, hostage negotiator, Constellis Group
During a rescue, make sure you drop to the ground, spread your arms, hands open and flat on the floor. Do not move voluntarily, even if you think the action has stopped. Follow the rescuers’ instructions without hesitation until you are safe again.
“Expect to be treated as a suspected hostage taker. You may be restrained and treated in a forceful manner.” Dr. Frank Grimm, hostage negotiator, Constellis Group
In closing, with kidnapping becoming a serious international issue, it’s critical for travelers to take extra precautions to protect themselves. Prevention is the best solution.
“Remember that kidnap for ransom is a crime in which both parties, the kidnappers and the family/corporation, both want the same outcome, the release of the hostage. The kidnappers want money but can only sell the hostage to one entity, therefore the family or corporation has some measure of control over the outcome. Simply put, the kidnappers need the good guys to pay. Resolving a kidnap requires a thoughtful quid pro quo negotiation process to be effective.”
Gary Noesner, former FBI hostage negotiator