Stockholm Syndrome and Child Sex Abuse: Background information when reading One Kick

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One Kick

A Kick Lannigan Novel

by Chelsea Cain

One Kick by Chelsea Cain X
One Kick by Chelsea Cain
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2014, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2015, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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About this Book

Stockholm Syndrome and Child Sex Abuse

This article relates to One Kick

Print Review

During a bank holdup in Stockholm, Sweden in 1973, two men held four people hostage for six days. Over that time period the hostages bonded with the captors and vice versa. The hostages eventually even believed that their captors were actually their protectors, keeping the police from hurting them. It is rumored that one of the hostages later became engaged to one of the captors.

Kreditbanken Norrmalmstorg StockholmAlthough this behavior, called Stockholm Syndrome, seems self-defeating, strange, and even inexplicable, it is quite the contrary. Research has shown that time and again many "hostages" eventually develop fond feelings for their captors. Here the word hostage refers to any one of a number of situations wherein individuals feel trapped by others. From true hostages to battered spouses, incest victims, cult members, sexually, physically abused and kidnapped children the reaction is identical.

According to authorities on the subject, there are certain general circumstances under which this syndrome is likely to occur. They include when there is, "a perceived threat to survival and a belief that the captor is willing to carry out that threat," being isolated "from perspectives other than those of the captor," and a "perceived inability to escape." Additionally the captive must also believe that s/he can curry favor with the captor by being compliant.

In those circumstances captive people begin to develop positive feelings for their captors and they take on the captor's negative feelings for the authorities endeavoring to rescue them. Further, given enough time, captors, remarkably, often also develop fondness for their hostages.

When children, in particular, are kidnapped or abused, their perception of their situation becomes hugely distorted as a means of self-preservation. They will cling to hope, focusing on whatever positive aspect of their situation they can find. They will blame themselves for having brought the abuse on themselves and fear retaliation from the abuser should they try to escape – or be rescued. Thus they will resist rescue attempts by authorities. And even after an escape or rescue the child will remain loyal to the abuser out of fear that he will come back and inflict severe punishment for disloyalty.

Needless to say the effects of being held in physical and emotional captivity on children are enormous – psychologically, and even physically, debilitating and lifelong. Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem are just the beginning. Survivors suffer flashbacks not unlike PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) sufferers. They can be antisocial, angry and unable to sustain healthy relationships with the opposite sex. They themselves are at greater risk for becoming an abuser. Years of professional counseling is strongly advised if they are to assume any semblance of their former lives.

Former Kreditbanken Norrmalmstorg Stockholm where hostages were held for six days in 1973. Photo courtesy of Tage Olsin

This "beyond the book article" relates to One Kick. It originally ran in September 2014 and has been updated for the May 2015 paperback edition.

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