Most books written by kidnap victims end with joy and optimism. At long last the victim is going to live a normal life again. The reality that awaits him or her is however rarely touched upon in such books, and many survivors are severely traumatized.
Typical effects are
- Flashbacks, reliving the nightmare
- Shattered self-confidence
- Feeling of being unsafe
- Feelings of guilt and shame
- Inability to connect with or trust others
- Problems with focus, memory and decision-making
- Restlessness, irritability and aggression
- Lack of energy
- Vulnerability and helplessness
If you are offered professional help, please accept it. Debriefing is the first assistance you may get. This may be provided by the police, the army or a humanitarian organisation that may hire psychiatrists or psychologists with knowledge of trauma treatment. Sometimes the debriefing is handled by volunteers or staff trained in the subject. This is a chance to talk things through, and may give you an indication about possible trauma effects. Use these opportunities to find out if you are in need of therapy. In case you need it, therapy is more effective the earlier it is applied.
Some victims do not get much support. Subject to where they live and the resources available, they may not get a proper debriefing, and are basically left to fend for themselves. Good therapists may be expensive, and in some countries well trained therapists are rare. So what to do if you are traumatized and no help is available? There are self help books in the market, offering a range of self-help tools against trauma effects. Unfortunately, they typically contain comprehensive discussions and numerous excercises which may be far too much to handle for troubled victims. Olav Ofstad's book Kidnapping Survival, published in August 2023, offers a chapter on the topic, aimed at presenting a less demanding, easy to understand self-help guide. In case you have access to therapy, this chapter also presents a variety of different therapy techniques. Knowledge of these will facilitate your interaction with the therapist and make it easier to agree on methods you are comfortable with.