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Post Traumatic Effects Of Kidnapping


       “I am a changeling–a word that describes within its own name what we are bound and intended to do. We kidnap a human child and replace him or her with one of our own…” (The Stolen Child). The double story of Henry Day begins in 1949, when he is kidnapped at age seven by a band of wild childlike beings who live in an ancient, secret community in the forest. The changelings rename their captive Aniday and he becomes, like them, unaging and stuck in time. They leave one of their own to take his place, an imposter who must try–with varying success–to hide his true identity from the Day family. As the changeling Henry grows up, he is haunted by glimpses of his lost double and by vague memories of his own childhood a century earlier (The Stolen Child). As Henry and Aniday’s  lives converge, driven by their obsessive search for who they were before they changed places in the world, the reader can clearly identify some of the psychological effects they are both experiencing. Although society believes that the victim in a kidnapping tragedy will overcome their suffering, kidnapping victims are left to a life filled with devastating emotional and psychological setbacks due to their experiences.

            Kidnapping is defined as forceful abduction of a human being with the intention to hold them for ransom, or seize them away for the motive of harassment (physically, mentally or sexually), taking them hostage and various other motives. The kidnapped person is taken to a place where they are unlikely to be found and are unlikely to be released till abductors demands are satisfied (Kidnapping).

            When an individual is kidnapped, it is very difficult to remain positive. They must maintain an optimistic mental state and think about what is happening outside. They must think about their family in a positive light and remain hopeful that they will be released, not letting the despair bring them down. As a result of being kidnapped, many surviving victims will experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to one or more terrifying events that threatened or caused grave physical harm. It is a severe and ongoing emotional reaction to an extreme psychological trauma. Traumatic events that may cause PTSD symptoms to develop include, violent assault, kidnapping, torture, being held hostage, violent assault or prisoner of war. The symptoms of PTSD include sleep problems, nightmares, flashback and replays, impaired memory, inability to concentrate, hyper vigilance, irritability, panic attacks, obsessivness, feeling of nervousness and anxiety, and even depression. Few people realize that psychiatric injury can be even more devastating than physical injury; however, prospects for recovery are good, especially when you are in the company of fellow survivors or those with genuine insight, empathy and experience (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

            In the novel, The Stolen Child, Aniday, once Henry Day, now kidnapped and situated in the forest, is beginning to experience the effects of a kidnapping. “My kidnapping, still fresh in my mind, left me timid and battered, not trusting a soul in the woods” (Donohue 26). As Aniday becomes familiar with his surroundings and his captors, he builds a strong relationship with these fey-folk fairy’s. They are of the unsweetened variety: Some are casually libidinous, and all of them are delightfully grungy (Powells).

            In the real kidnapping case of Elizabeth Smart, a very different dynamic between the captor and the captive emerged. At the young age of fourteen, Smart’s own instincts of survival or protection were not as developed, and this lack of maturity resulted in the development of a strong bond between her and Brian Mitchell, resulting in intense Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm Syndrome describes the behaviour of kidnap victims who, over time, become sympathetic to their captors. The name derives from a 1973 hostage incident in Stockholm, Sweden. At the end of six days of captivity in a bank, several kidnap victims actually resisted rescue attempts, and afterwards refused to testify against their captors (Ask Yahoo). This syndrome is illustrated by Smart’s failure to seek help. Only three days after her kidnapping, Smart had heard her uncle searching and calling for her not far from her hidden location, but did not call out or draw attention to herself. This derisive lack of motivation to be rescued is prevalent throughout the nine months of which she was held hostage. Many people questioned her and her captors about who she was during this period of time, but she denied anything but what she had been told by Mitchell (Stockholm Syndrome: Unequal Power Relationships).

            In the case of seven year old Aniday, fellow faeries had the same impact on him. “The faeries welcomed me as their own and taught me the ways of the woods, and I grew fond of them all” (Donohue 26). They began to brainwash him, filling his head with the consequences of trying to escape from the forest. “If they catch you, they will think you a devil, and lock you away, or worse, they will test to see if they are right by throwing you in a fire” (Donohue 27). One late night, a close encounter with a human arose between Aniday, Luchóg and what the reader refers to as the lady in the red coat. Aniday, with the overwhelmed notion to test his faery powers, distracted by the real world, found himself close to being captured by the lady in the red coat. As he and Luchóg retreated back to the forest he was advised, “You mustn’t tell anyone about what happened tonight. Stay away from people and be content with who you are” (Donohue 35). Aniday is a prime example of someone who is experiencing Stockholm Syndrome. With his mind twisted and engaged in unequal power relationships with the other faeries, Aniday is a candidate for this Syndrome. However, not all potential subjects, placed in these situations, react in a way that intensifies Stockholm Syndrome. Many in similarly unequal power relationships seek revenge or escape as soon as it is offered. Bank hostages have held their captor to the window to be shot, slaves have killed their masters in rage, and so one cannot assume that there exists a generalization that captives will come to inappropriately identify with their captors when places in such survival scenarios. Strong morals and beliefs are personality traits that may ease Stockholm Syndrome in some people. In the rapid change of Elizabeth Smart and Aniday, it may be possible to attribute this to their lack of clear values within their life due to inexperience, and their desire for acceptance and obedience. As a basic concept, Stockholm Syndrome is the duality of a power relationship over someone. A person captured becomes deeply involved with the captor due to the typical confine of the circumstances, and because even through the abuse and threats, they still must accept them as the only source of contact and nurturing that focuses on them (Stockholm Syndrome: Unequal Power Relationships).

                Each story of Henry Day and Aniday involves either the difficulty of remembering or the impossibility of forgetting, the yearning for a lost life or the guilt associated with a past one. Henry and Aniday represent the guilt of a suburban conformist feeling the call of the wild. Aniday is initiated into the faery ways and quickly forgets his human roots. His life is a hard one, for the faery world is nowhere near as romantic as society paints it. Henry tries to live as a human and adjust to the modern times, but is plagued by past memories. Both boys are restless, unable to live at peace with themselves and their worlds. The post traumatic and psychological affects of kidnapping are forever ongoing. Victims of these tragic events will never forget their experiences, sadly having to live with the memories for the rest of their lives. Even though society believes that the victims in a kidnapping tragedy will quickly overcome their suffering, the syndromes described are devastating emotionally and physically leaving the victims filled with anguish and pain. “I am gone and am not coming back, but I remember everything” (Donohue 320).


By: Natascia Marcantognini


Works Cited 

Donohue, Keith. The Stolen Child. New York: Anchor, 2007.

“Kidnapping.” Legal Explanations.com. 2007. 13 Dec. 2008 <http://www.legal-explanations.com/definitions/kidnapping.htm>.

“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Canadian Mental Health Association. 13 Dec. 2008 <http://www.cmha.ca/bins/content_page.asp?cid=3-94-97>.

“Review-A-Day.” Powell’s Books. 14 July 2006. The Washington Post. 13 Dec. 2008 <http://www.powells.com/review/2006_07_14.html>.

“Stockholm Syndrome.” Ask Yahoo. 13 Dec. 2008 <http://ask.yahoo.com/20030324.html>.

“Stockholm Syndrome: Unequal Power Relationships.” Serendip. 13 Dec. 2008 <http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1896>.  














8 Responses to “Post Traumatic Effects Of Kidnapping”

  1.   jayhen Says:

    wow. Great essay. This article is very well written. You have a great vocabulary and you are able to express your thoughts very clearly. Also, I like how you are able to use outside sources in a way that makes sense.

  2.   mikefabris Says:

    Amazing work Natascia! Very extensive vocabulary which draws my attention to read-on. I found it very interesting, especially the paragraph on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder! No doubt, you were the perfect person for the job!

  3.   lavallee Says:

    Great work. Interesting research on a great topic.

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