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 kidnappinghotspots.
After researching and working with some of the best hostage negotiators in the country and abroad while writing my novel , 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had no idea that Kidnapping was finally getting serious exposure, KJ. Thanks for letting us know. And I love the guidelines for anyone who's kidnapped. They make so much sense. I'd sure want Thea on my side!
Oh, K.J. what a great summary of techniques/advice when it comes to kidnapping cases. You, of course, are the expert on this issue, having done so much research and written such a great thriller about this important subject, THE FREEDOM BROKER. Thanks for posting!
Thanks, K.J. Very interesting! I hope that, in a future post, you might explain why some kidnap victims become too close to their kidnappers: Patty Hearst is the example I'm thinking of.
I'm with John. I have never quite figured out Stockholm Syndrome. I can see playing along if you need to for survival, but actually turning and taking the side of the kidnappers seems crazy.
Great tips. I hope I never have to implement any of them.