Love in the Time of Kidnapping

Can love bloom from kidnapping? (Fast Company)

Can love bloom from kidnapping? (Fast Company)

Stockholm syndrome occurs when a hostage develops feelings of empathy, sympathy and other positive emotions—even love—for their captors. Some scientists believe this stems from our hunter-gatherer days, when females were often abducted by other clans. There could be rape, torture and other abuse involved, of course, but sometimes these women were incorporated into the tribe. And their genetic contributions—after procreating with their captors—can be found in the bloodlines of these ancient peoples even today.

I have always been fascinated by Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, as it is sometimes known. How could anyone come to not only accept their abuse, but to develop feelings for the people abusing them? I understand that after extensive and constant abuse, some victims view a sudden lack of abuse as an act of kindness—this intensifies with each interaction and could eventually result in love, I suppose, but it still seems a little far-fetched.

It’s more like brainwashing if you ask me.

Consider Patty Hearst, the newspaper heiress kidnapped from her Berkeley, California apartment in 1974 by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. In just two months, her captors converted her into a member and even involved her in one of their schemes: a bank robbery in San Francisco. Photographs from the scene show Hearst—now known as Tania—walking around the bank with an M1 carbine and yelling at customers.

Patty Hearst: Bank Robber (Getty Images)

Apparently, her assignment was crowd control.

At any rate, Hearst was tracked down, arrested, convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to seven years in 1976—President Jimmy Carter later commuted her sentence and she was released after only 22 months. Many claimed that Hearst was a victim of Stockholm syndrome, a term coined a few years earlier by Swedish psychologist and criminologist Nils Bejerot. And I suppose Carter believed them since he freed Hearst quickly enough for her to hit the interview circuit and to write her autobiography, Every Secret Thing, a few years later.

Patty Hearst’s situation got me thinking about what would happen if the opposite were true. Instead of victims developing feelings for their captors, what would happen if kidnappers fell in love with their victims?

As I understand it, a name has actually been proposed for this reverse Stockholm syndrome: Lima syndrome.

It references a hostage crisis in Lima, Peru in December of 1996, when members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) stormed the residence of a Japanese ambassador and took hundreds of diplomats, business executives, military and government officials hostage—more than 600, I think.

Soon after the crisis began, roughly half of the hostages were released. This trend continued as 38 more were released on day three and another 255 on day five. In all, the captivity of roughly 72 men lasted until a team of Peruvian commandos initiated Operation Chavin de Huantar 126 days later. They stormed the residence, killed all the kidnappers and only lost one hostage in the process—as well as two of their own.

Many considered the operation to be a huge success, but there were others who wondered why the kidnappers would release so many hostages or—more specifically—so many bargaining chips. Psychologists believe they developed feelings of sympathy towards their prisoners and may have released them to express adulation, so they coined the term Lima syndrome to differentiate it from Stockholm syndrome.

At this point, I would normally expound upon the reasons why both of these syndromes equate to the fecal matter of a male cow, but now I’m not so sure. I actually heard a story the other day that makes me think something like Lima syndrome might be legitimate, after all.

Todd "recruits" women for sex traffickers (Facebook)

Todd “recruits” women for sex traffickers (Facebook)

It happened when 19-year-old Brandon Todd was arrested in New York on July 10th and charged with kidnapping across state lines. The maximum sentence for such a crime is life imprisonment. And you would think someone facing such a harsh penalty would avoid law enforcement at all costs, but such was not the case with this young man.

In April, Todd met a young woman on a cross-country bus trip from Florida to San Diego, California. He convinced her to share a hotel room with him in San Diego, but on the way there, his demeanor completely changed. He threatened the woman and told her that if she refused to board a bus to New York with him, he would murder her parents. She obliged and they traveled to Rochester.

Todd’s grandfather even met them at the bus station and drove them to the house Todd shared with his grandparents. And according to an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent Barry Crouch—one of the arresting officers—the grandfather “would not talk to [the victim], would not look her in the eye, and did not seem to care that she was there.” ABC News attempted to speak with Todd’s grandparents later, but they of course declined to comment.

Todd kept his victim prisoner in his bedroom for more than two weeks. And for two weeks, he called the FBI—specifically Agent Crouch—daily. Sometimes he even put the call on speaker so his victim could hear him speaking to authorities.

As if this wasn’t bizarre enough, Todd used these calls to confess his sins to the federal investigator and to offer his assistance. Here’s how Crouch put it in the affidavit he submitted on July 9th:

Todd claimed to have information about people involved in human sex trafficking and wanted to provide that information to the FBI. Todd called back on an approximate daily basis speaking to myself… for approximately two weeks… he [claimed to be] involved in human sex trafficking and [to have] connections to a group that was involved in the trafficking… Todd reported that he and the trafficking organization had multiple contacts in law enforcement that were used in the furtherance of the trafficking.

Todd went on to explain that his role was to find young women, recruit them—or capture them, if they resisted—abuse them, break them down and prepare them for a career in the illegal sex trade. They would then be sent to some other state or even another country as forced prostitutes, some never to be heard from again.

Helping the authorities track down some of these unfortunate sex slaves wasn’t the young kidnapper’s only reason for calling, though. It turns out that his young victim from several weeks earlier—the one from the bus—faked an asthma attack and managed to contact her boyfriend while being treated in the hospital. He came to get her and the couple immediately drove back to Florida.

Sex trafficking is a growing problem around the world (Marty Duren)

Sex trafficking is a growing problem around the world (Marty Duren)

During one of their daily calls, Todd told Crouch he had developed feelings for his prisoner and no longer wanted her involved in sex trafficking. Unfortunately, he had no idea where to find her—perhaps in a shelter or hospital—and asked for the FBI’s help in locating and communicating with her. This is how Crouch put it in his affidavit: “He wanted to reconnect with her and have the FBI communicate to her that he was someone she could reconnect with.”

Yeah. That’s bloody likely.

Oddly enough, this request came after Todd admitted to beating his captive with a belt, stomping on her, depriving her of sleep, food and other comforts, monitoring her every move and even forcing her into sex several times a day. No wonder she escaped as quickly as she could, huh?

To say Todd suffered from Lima syndrome—that he truly was in love with his prisoner after once intending to enter her into slavery—seems as good an explanation as any. Equally good might be to say he was a deranged, demented and sick individual with serious mental and emotional problems. Whatever the case may be, though, the important thing—aside from his young captive gaining her freedom—is that Todd do the right thing and aid the authorities in rescuing some of his former victims—the ones now working in the sex trade in any number of different locations.

And I would be remiss if I failed to mention society’s role in a case like Brandon Todd’s. This is a troubled young man with deep-seeded psychological problems, at least in my humble opinion. Yes, he should pay for his crime, but we are also responsible for providing treatment as part of his rehabilitation efforts. Put another way: the society that produces individuals with problems should be the one that helps them solve those problems.

Recruiters could be people you know (United Nations/Getty Images)

Recruiters could be people you know (United Nations/Getty Images)

We will have to wait and see if this happens for Brandon Todd, though. He just obtained a new lawyer and, as far as I know, a court date has not been set. Stay tuned for what promises to be a very interesting—albeit disturbing—case. And by all means, be careful out there.

You never know, but a sex trafficker could be lurking around the next corner!

Posted on July 27, 2013, in Perspectives, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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