Could it happen to you? Although the danger ofbeing kidnapped is over rated, you should learn how to emerge unharmed from ahostage ordeal.
Kidnapped! With increasing frequency in recentyears that blood-chilling word has muscled its way into missionaryconversation, bringing with it dread and fear. More than rape, murder,burglary, or robbery, kidnapping is the security threat feared by missionaries.In areas where it occurs with some frequency, the threat may substantiallydiminish the quality of life enjoyed by missionaries and their children, whomust live with fear and restrictions on their freedoms.
Yet, not all fears about terrorism arewarranted. Knowledge about terrorists and how to deal with them can go a longway to relieve unrealistic fears.
The mythology of terrorism
Third World countries are dangerous places inwhich to live, right? Wrong. While kidnapping occurs more frequently in someparts of the world than in others, the statistical probability of your becominga victim of kidnapping is minuscule.
Statistics show crime occurs more frequently inthe Southeastern United States than anywhere else in the world. You are farmore likely to be robbed, raped, or killed in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas,or Tennessee than you are to be a victim of terrorism in Ireland, Colombia,Peru, Mexico, the Philippines, or Israel. Yet, most middle-class Americans arenot afraid to live in the Southeastern U.S. Why, then, should a missionary beafraid to live in a developing country?
Another kidnapping myth is the predictabilityof being murdered. Most victims are not killed by their kidnappers. Even whenextortion demands are not met, hostages are rarely executed. Only 3 percent of skyjackinghostages have been executed, although typically 12 to 13 percent of hostagesdie during assaults by police and national security forces. Single victimkidnappings are even less likely to end in disaster. Ninety-eight percent ofsuch victims eventually are freed.
That is the good news. On the negative side,the number and frequency of hostage-taking incidents is increasing. The Annalsof Political and Social Science’s special edition on terrorism indicates someone-third of all terrorist incidents now involve hostages. Most are taken whiletraveling in automobiles, or while walking to or from their cars.
Missionaries are often ill-prepared for aterrorist incident. They view themselves as neither affluent nor powerful, andof little value to terrorists. Surely terrorists would target businesses withvast resources rather than a mission organization with comparatively fewresources. Many people in developing countries, however, view any organizationwith automobiles, airplanes, seminaries, offices, and modern homes as grandlywealthy.
Missionaries should accept training to enhancetheir safety and lower their anxiety. A high-risk person in a high-risk areacan learn to function effectively and relatively safely. What is a high-riskperson? You may be especially at risk when you are one of few Americansavailable at a time when U.S. foreign policy is decidedly unpopular where youlive.
U.S. bank employees are required to undergoannual training on how to conduct themselves during an armed robbery. Thistraining, federally mandated since 1968, has produced a generation of bankemployees reasonably prepared to cope with violent crime. As a result, bankemployee stress has been reduced. Employees respond more appropriately to emergencysituations because they know what to do and what not to do. Their chances forsurvival have been greatly enhanced. It can be so for the missionary.
The potential hostage must learn how to survivethe stress of being kidnapped. He or she must learn what to say and do, and howto conduct each day’s business. Missionaries should learn how to be»successful victims.» What is a successful victim? It is one whoafterwards is taken to neither the hospital nor the morgue.
Become a successful victim
First, realize if the terrorist had wanted tokill you, he would not have taken you hostage. The least complicated terroristact is a simple assassination. Murder can be attempted from great distances,using bombs or rifles, at very little risk to the terrorist.
On the other hand, kidnappings are complicated,requiring considerable planning and preparation. Terrorists must mobilize ateam to carry out the kidnapping and deploy at least five men or women forguard duty over the course of a week. Significant financial resources arerequired to feed, clothe, house, and provide the victim with medical attention.They must be able to secure an appropriate «safe house» for thecaptive.
For the small terrorist group, the investmentis tremendous. It is also confining, because all other activities are oftencompletely curtailed during the captivity. Former hostage Benjamin Weirreported his guards told him, “When you are freed, we, too, will be free.”
Terrorists are willing to make this kind ofinvestment only because of the value of having a live victim. A sick, injured,or dead hostage is worthless. Because of a few widely publicized incidentswhere hostages have died, many people have come to the erroneous conclusionthat most hostages are in imminent danger of being killed. This is just nottrue.
Actually, the hostage himself, by his ownactions, determines whether or not he will live through the ordeal. This willbe decided in large by whether the victim controls his emotions during theabduction and captivity.
Russell Stendall, a missionary kid turnedfarmer, was captured in Colombia and held for nearly five months. In his book,Rescue the Captors, Stendall said he constantly applied Psalm 141:1 in hisdealings with his guards. His prayer was, «Set a watch, O Lord, before mymouth; keep the door of my lips.» Theologically and practically; this isgood advice.
Time is in favor of the hostage
Worldwide, the average length of captivity forAmerican hostages is 38 days, according to Bryan Jenkins of the Rand Corporation.In a study
of hostage incidents involving Americans, he found longer periods ofcaptivity among Muslim terrorists like those who held Weir for 495 days. LatinAmerican groups tend not to hold hostages as long.
As the hours, days, and weeks go by, the captiveor his family may feel increasingly apprehensive. They may even give upemotionally. Yet, an encouraging trend emerges from data on terrorism. Thelonger the hostage survives, the greater the probability he will one day bereleased unharmed.
The most dangerous time
The most dangerous time for the hostage is inthe first moments of captivity. As the mind makes its «fight orflight» evaluation, it is easy for the victim to respond inappropriately.Experts on terrorism make one simple and universal recommendation. Never offerresistance in the face of overwhelming force. An emotional reaction isincredibly dangerous.
The rule against reacting is even moreimportant when the lives of others are also at stake. If a whole airplane isbeing taken by a number of terrorists, a passenger who resists could endangereveryone. A sense of responsibility for the lives of others should be ingrainedinto any Christ-centered person.
The second most dangerous time for the victimis during a rescue attempt. This is when most hostages are killed, either byterrorists or by government services sent to rescue hostages. To minimize thepotential of being killed or injured during a rescue attempt, the hostageshould crouch as closely as possible to the floor or ground. He should not getup or move, even if it appears government forces are in control. Often,government anti-terrorist response teams are instructed to shoot anything thatmoves. By staying quiet until instructed to move, the newly-rescued hostagewill greatly increase his chances of walking away from the ordeal.
The alarming first encounter
Most hostage situations can be divided intofour stages. The first stage is characterized by alarm. Initially, theterrorist is under tremendous pressure to subdue each hostage physically andemotionally. If he can quickly instill fear and gain cooperation, he will nothave to use as much force. The initial attack will be fast and as terrifying aspossible, perhaps including machine gun blasts or explosions. Terrorists may employprofanity, threats to kill, and physical abuse in an effort to bring thesituation under their control.
It is not a good idea to resist, even verbally,at this stage.
Victims should avoid quick movements thatterrorists could interpret as an attempt to escape. On the other hand, whentold to move, don’t act too slowly, or the terrorist could think you arepassively resisting. Any resistance invites injury.
An example of the danger of resistance comesfrom armed robbery data in the U.S. When robbery victims resisted a robbery,half were injured. Only one in 20 submissive victims was injured in any ways. Thesame sort of comparison is likely to hold true for kidnappings as well.
Most terrorists are young. They are nervous andexcited; the reputation of their group and their cause is on the line. Whilethey have public attention they must establish their identity as tough men andwomen. In this environment, it is the victim’s responsibility to maintain calmat the scene. You should always assume your kidnapper is capable of killingyou. Any attempt at heroics is likely to result in your death.
Even when conditions are suitable, escapeshould be attempted only by a person in excellent physical condition. Such aperson should have good endurance, and be capable of a long run.
Paul Dye, a New Tribes pilot in Colombia, waskidnapped and held in a jungle camp. He was an accomplished athlete inexcellent physical condition. He had grown up in rural Colombia and probablyknew as much about jungle survival as any American. Yet, although he hadseveral opportunities, he chose not to escape-until he had the chance to grabhis airplane. He knew the dangers of trying to survive alone in the jungle.
During the initial onslaught, the victim isnormally disoriented and in shock. Because hostages are often forced to turnover their watches, they are unable to keep track of time. Often, severalpeople are confined in a small area, and claustrophobia may surface. Whetherheld in a group or as a single prisoner, victims normally experience boredomand feelings of hopelessness and isolation.
The captors often demand complete silence. Evenwhen hostages are held in a group, terrorists may not permit individualconversations or open communication. Adults who become angry or react toclaustrophobic conditions, small children who are irritable, or people whocannot cope with captivity drain everyone emotionally-including the captors.
Moving on to crisis and accommodation
The second stage is one of crisis. Theterrorists are still dangerous, and will continue to be a serious threatthroughout the encounter. Skyjackers may interact with the passengers, tellingthem to cover the windows or remove some of the seats. In a barricade/hostagesituation, terrorists may have their victims rearrange furniture or tape overexterior windows so that security forces cannot see into the building.
In this stage, hostages continue to experiencestress, especially when fellow hostages panic or display bad temper or nervousproblems. Such stress is aggravated when it becomes obvious to hostages thattheir condition is not likely to change soon.
The third stage is the longest and mosttranquil. Terrorists have often isolated their hostages, and may become morereasonable. They may even be willing to make concessions, especially if trainedhostage negotiators are working with them.
Even though the situation may seem less tense,hostages should be careful not to act precipitously. Do not argue with yourcaptors and do not draw attention to yourself by acting differently from otherhostages. By this time, most hostages have given up considering escape options?
The case is closed
In the final phase, the hostage situation isresolved or terminated. In some cases, the hostage-take
r is fatigued and readyto surrender voluntarily. Radical terrorists may kill their hostages or commitsuicide. The negotiator, whether in a barricade/hostage situation or in thecase of kidnapping, should give his adversary the opportunity to concede withthe appearance of dignity. The goal is a «win-win» resolution.
Occasionally, the kidnapper is allowed to speakto former hostages or to be escorted from the scene in a gentlemanly fashion.At the conclusion of one Boeing 747 skyjacking, a stewardess kissed eachskyjacker and said, «Thank you for giving me my life back.
At this stage, the hostages are normallyexhausted, having experienced feelings ranging from extreme boredom to sheerterror. Nevertheless, those previously trained for such an ordeal emerge asstronger, more vital people. Their training is a source of help, comfort, andconsolation during the crisis and maximizes their ability to resume a normallife.
The Stockholm Syndrome
Friends of newly-released hostages may bepuzzled when victims seem hostile toward the police or military officialsresponsible for their release. This is the effect of what is now called theStockholm syndrome.
In 1973, the Sveriges Kreditbank of Stockholm,Sweden, was robbed by a group of armed criminals. More than 60 customers weretaken hostage, and a 130-hour ordeal began. The behavior exhibited by thehostages at this time became known as the Stockholm syndrome. It is nowrecognized as an almost universal phenomenon in hostage-taking incidents.
The syndrome occurs as friendship and respectdevelops between terrorist and victim. The hostage is dependent on the captorfor food, liquids, and even permission to use the bathroom. As the bondingprocess continues, it becomes increasingly difficult for the kidnapper to killhis victim. He may have no qualms about killing a nameless, faceless victim.But it is quite another matter to execute in cold blood someone he has come toknow as a person.
When orders were given by leaders of theterrorist M-19 group for the execution of missionary captive Chester Bitterman,they found it necessary to bring in a new group of terrorists to do it. TheM-19 members who had been his guards would not kill him.
American Brigadier General James L. Dozier,abducted in Italy by the Red Brigade, developed a relationship with several ofhis captors. His guard was instructed to kill him if an anti-terrorist squadappeared. When the raid occurred, the terrorist could not bring himself to killthe general. He said, «I no longer saw an American imperialistic pig. I sawa sleeping man and I could not pull the trigger.»
Such bonding as characterized by the Stockholmsyndrome can save your life. Even criminals and psychotics do not normally killpeople they like and respect. For this reason, after the first few hours of captivity,the hostage should begin to lay the groundwork for bonding. He may makereasonable, non-confrontational requests to use the bathroom or have a drink ofwater. Terrorists do not want to live with hostages who smell of urine orexcrement. Reasonable ground rules may be negotiated between victim and captorunder even the most adverse conditions.
Both terrorist and victim face a stressful,life-threatening situation together. Their common future rests on thesuccessful conclusion of the ordeal. Even this stress may add to the potentialfor bonding and the Stockholm syndrome transference effect.
Depend on God
In a real emergency, you can depend on no onebut yourself-and God. That is a majority in any crowd including a crowd ofterrorists. If you and your family have been trained for such an emergency, youare likely to respond appropriately. Depend on your training, your instincts,and divine guidance.
Bass,Gail; Jenkins, Brian A.; Kellen, Konrad; Ronfeldt, David. Options for US. Policyon Terrorism. Santa Monica: Rand (R-2764-RC), July, 1981.
Jenkins, Brian; Johnson, Janern: and Ronfeldt, David. NumberedGives: Some Statistical Observations from 771nternational Hostage Episodes.Santa Monica: Rand (P-5905), July, 1977, pp. 27.
Jenkins,Brian M. Terrorism and Personal Protection. Boston: Butterworth Publishers,1985, p. 196.
Jenkins, Brian M. Hostage Survival: Some Preliminary Observations.Santa Monica: Rand (P-5291), September, 1974, p. 9.
Koebetz, Richard VV. and Cooper, H. H. A. Target Terrorism:Providing Protective Services. Gaithersburg, Md.: International Association ofChiefs of Police, 1978, p. 67.
MacDonald, John M. Armed Robbery. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C.Thomas Publishers, 1975, p. 138.
McGrath, Thomas G. «Terrorism and Crisis Management.»U.S. Department of State, Office of Security, Education and Training Division,p. 45.
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