Kala Brown, of Anderson, South Carolina, said the captivity started after Todd Kohlhepp shot her boyfriend on August 31 2016 when the couple went to work on his farm. Brown was kept in the dark container for two months before authorities rescued her. Kohlhepp was charged with kidnapping Brown and the death of Brown's boyfriend, Charles Carver, 32.
In February this year,Kala Brown narrated her ordeal in Dr. Phil’s TV show
Kala is obviously a strong person, which is an asset in any kidnap situation. She states proudly that ‘ he cannot destroy who I am, and I won’.
But what can we learn from her experiences?
Kala’s survival commitment
Kala clearly had a commitment to survive. Three elements seem important in this regard.
- Her boyfriend would have wanted her to live.
- Her parents wanted her to live.
- She has a religious belief, and prayed a lot during captivity.
This fact may be related to a chemical reaction in our body, termed ‘the Acetylcholine effect’. Acetylcholine is a chemical compound associated with the mindset of surrender. In practical terms the opposite of adrenaline, this compound causes low pulse rate, reduced blood pressure, and low sugar levels, all affecting our ability to cope with challenges.
So the lesson is, if you ever get kidnapped, define a reason to live, and hang on to it.
Kala’s attitude towards the kidnapper
Kala played along with the kidnapper’s fantasies about her staying with him on the farm, a tactic that appeared to work. That way she was able draw on his weird ideas of the Stockholm Syndrome.
It also appears that Kala after some time was able to assert herself and gain some respect, even telling the kidnapper that "he was nothing but a serial killer, and he would pay for what he did."
While this approach seems to have worked for her, it is in general very problematic.
On the one hand it is extremely important to gain the kidnapper’s respect. It is difficult to harm
someone you respect. This element is often neglected in kidnapping survival training.
On the other hand, provoking a kidnapper is normally dangerous.
While Kala felt she knew where she had him, and that he wanted her alive, it is also a fact that he killed a former woman captive because she had ‘pissed him off’. And other kidnap victims who provoked their captors have paid dearly.
What more, trust is an important element when you try to build a rapport with the kidnapper. To tell your captor that he cannot trust you and that he can forget about his dreams of a life with you, is not advisable, even if you feel you have the upper hand.
How we can gain a kidnapper’s respect and build trust is discussed in my book Surviving Kidnappers and will be touched upon in later blogs.
The lesson here is:
Find ways of earning respect, but do so without provoking and without breaking down possible trust.
Concluding my comments, I commend brave Kala for coming out a winner. She showed incredible guts, and I hope she is getting all the support she deserves.
 See Lester Quarles, Terrorism: Avoidance and Survival, 2000:113