| To me the important lesson to be learned from the Stockholm Syndrome is that assault - whether on a child or on an adult - ought to be treated as a criminal act and not a civil wrong. If it were a civil wrong, then it would be up to the victim to press charges. If the victim has bonded with the abuser, then the victim is not going to press charges. But if assault is a crime, it doesn't matter if the victim presses charges or not.|
-- Prof. W. Douglas Maurer Washington, DC
| What do concentration camp prisoners, cult members, civilians in Chinese Communist prisons, pimp-procured prostitutes, incest victims, battered women, prisoners of war, victims of hijackings, hostages, and physically and emotionally abused children have in common? Among other things, they’re all subject to developing the “Stockholm Syndrome.”|
| The Stockholm Syndrome takes its name from a famous hostage taking/bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973. There are many articles on it. What certainly happened is that the hostages, who were bound with dynamite and threatened with death for days, developed a very intense bond with their tormentors, and vice-versa. The genders of the four hostages were three females and one male, while both of the bank robbers were men. By various accounts one woman became engaged to one of her captors, one woman married one of the robbers, or two of the women eventually married two of the robbers. The facts are either mixed up, or maybe they are all true, written at different times. One victim, I think the man, set up a defense fund for the robbers. During the ordeal they came to believe that the robbers were protecting them from the police. They could never shake their illogical love, devotion, and infatuation for their former captors for the rest of their lives.|
| Patty Hearst, for those old enough to remember, is another oft-cited famous case, and there have been many others since. Some have recognized that the same effect can happen in situations where death itself may not be a likely outcome for the victim, but where torture and abuse are. The Digital Archive of PSYCHOHISTORY has a good, brief description. The four factors that are precursors to the Stockholm Syndrome are given as:|
|1. Perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the captor would carry out the threat.|
2. Perceived small kindness from the captor. (Note: letting the captive live is enough).
3. Isolation from perspectives other than those of the captor.
4. Perceived inability to escape.
| The article goes on to note that the Stockholm Syndrome is a survival mechanism that does indeed increase a victim’s chances of survival when taken hostage. The Syndrome has, like the mounting instinct, an evolutionary advantage. Even though it is psychologically harmful it is better, as far as evolutionary reproduction is concerned, than death. If the abuser shows any small act of kindness, the victim then dissociates the negative side and bonds with the “kind” side of the person very intensely. The victim tries to see the world through the abuser’s eyes and thus tries to conform to the abuser’s wishes, to the point that the victims become unaware of their own needs and wishes.|
| In lists that focus only on hostage situations, condition one is sometimes listed narrowly as “a person threatens to kill another and is perceived as having the ability to do so” (From a web site, “plane talk” about airplane hijackings specifically).|