My oldest daughter was 17 years old when she enrolled at the local community college. One of the first classes she took was Intro to Psychology.
While R was at work, she brought me some of her homework and a photocopy of an article. She quietly and timidly told me that she thought it described me.
I read it and did, indeed, recognize myself in it. But, I did nothing with that information or the realization that something was seriously wrong with my patterned behavior and my thinking. That ambivalence, that protective hiding, only further proved her point.
I’ve thanked and praised God all week, along with the rest of the nation, for the preservation of the lives of the three young women held captive in Cleveland, Ohio, and for their rescue. And, I’ve become a little infatuated with Charles Ramsey, the unlikely hero. But, I also picked up on some things in his interview with Anderson Cooper that have haunted me and piqued my curiosity–not in an ambulance chasing sort of way, but because I’m intrigued by the dynamics of that household and the strong similarities between that particular hostage situation and the perpetrator’s domestic violence background.
At one point in the interview, Mr. Ramsey shares that the little girl was crying. He admits his thoughts were that the little girl should shut up because her mama was trying to help her. But, she was crying, saying that she wanted her daddy, the kidnapper.
A sketchy picture has been painted with little information verified, but it seems that beatings were regular and may have induced several miscarriages. Mr. Ramsey had earlier stated that the door was “torture chambered” shut to keep the captives locked in. Surely, this little girl witnessed some of these horrific acts. Certainly, she saw the look of fear, sensed it, smelled it, in the house and in her mother’s eyes. Didn’t she have a natural bond to her frightened mother held hostage by this rapist, this violent man? How could this little girl witness all of that and yet throw a fit for her daddy when her mother was desperately attempting a brave escape?
I’ve seen it with my own children and the children of the women in my support group. They had, have, a greater desire to please the abuser and long to draw close to them, rejecting and vilifying the victim parent.
I understand it because I’ve felt it. I was in a similar place back when my daughter came home from school ten years ago and gingerly presented me with that paper. I was scared to death of R, but I wanted to, at the same time, protect him.
Those seven photocopied pages were hidden in the school room all this time, and I’ve reread them frequently now that R is gone.
The copied chapter is titled Survivors of Terror, Battered Women, Hostages, and the Stockholm Syndrome. I believe it’s from the book Rethinking Clinical Approaches by Dee L.R. Graham et al. On pages 217 and 218 the author states, “Although the experiences of hostages and battered women are seen as very different phenomena, in this chapter, we suggest that the psychological reactions of battered women can best be explained as a result of their experiences of being trapped in a situation that is very similar to that of hostages. Traditional psychological theories have suggested that battered women love and remain with the men who batter them because of female masochism. We suggest that their experiences can be better understood through the model of the Stockholm Syndrome, which has been developed to account for the paradoxical psychological responses of hostages to their captors (Dutton & Painter, 1981; Finkelhor & Yilo, 1985; Hilberman, 1980). In particular, when threatened with death by a captor who is also kind in some ways, hostages develop a fondness for the captor and an antipathy toward authorities working for their release. The captor may also develop a fondness for the hostages.
This model furthers a feminist analysis of battered women. First, it is a situation-centered as opposed to a person-centered approach. The model shows how the psychological characteristics observed in battered women resemble those of hostages, suggesting that these characteristics are the result of being in a life-threatening relationship rather than the cause of being in the relationship. Second, the model uses a power analysis that shows how extreme power imbalances between an abusive husband and battered wife, as between captor and hostage, can lead to strong emotional bonding.”
I think it goes without saying that this likely also applies to an abused child or a child held hostage.
As for the kindness of the perpetrator in this case, that has yet to be discussed. However, Mr. Ramsey does also tell Anderson Cooper that Amanda Berry was “wearing mascara, rings, was well groomed, didn’t look like she’d been kidnapped.”
In an interview with her cousins on another news program, one of them commented that she was still wearing her eyebrow rings and rings on her fingers that she’d worn before her kidnapping.
So, on some level, her kidnapper was “allowing” her a certain amount of expression of her individuality and expression of femininity by wearing make up and pulling her hair back. Could this be misinterpreted as a kindness? Or, could he have been using this as an example of his benevolence, a defense of himself against the protests of those he held captive? A sort of, “Look at what I do for you! Look what I let you do!” response to his victim’s pleas for freedom from his violence and torture?
Haven’t we all heard similar statements from our abusers?
I also think that the fact that the other two women were not tied up at the time but did not escape with Ms. Berry should be more than a footnote. The law enforcement source described them as brainwashed and fearful.
If a battered wife remains inside her home turned prison, it is presumed that she “likes it,” and Child Protective Services will even turn their suspicious eyes toward her, questioning her ability or her desire to protect her children. Social judgments are made. And, all too often, churches promote that response. But, seldom does anyone declare that she is simply brainwashed and fearful.
Though that is accepted as a normal response for a hostage, few seem to recognize the look of a wife who has taken that strange and lonely trip to Stockholm.