Psychology of Kidnapping
by Allison Gamble
Kidnapping is one of the most psychologically damaging crimes of all. Victims typically take many years to heal from the psychological wounds inflicted upon them, and some never completely recover. Kidnappings cause deep emotional and mental scars that leave victims to battle through issues of trust, independence, love, sex, respect, and a litany of others.
When it comes to kidnapping, in terms of forensic psychology, there are generally a few main motivations. First and foremost is sexual gratification. Often a person will kidnap in order to hold the victim prisoner as a sexual slave. In extreme cases, kidnappers may torture and kill their victims when they no longer have any use for them. These types of cases are incredibly disturbing and often leave a lasting impact on the psyche of society. Kidnappers may also commit their crimes for ransom. Unlike sexual kidnappings, ransom kidnappings require the abductors keep their victims from harm. Sadly, even in ransom kidnappings, the abductor may have no real intention of ever returning the victim.
The psychology behind kidnapping often leads back to a need for power over an individual. As sexual kidnappings also include rape, battery, and homicide, the abductor is typically not simply perpetrating the act for physical gratification. Sexual kidnappers are thrilled by the psychological aspect of the act, as they hold complete power over their victims. A kidnapper's mentality is that once they have another human being in their possession, that person has to rely on them for everything, including food and water, and it is this power that drives many kidnappers to commit these gruesome acts.
Ransom kidnappers may have some of the same motives, but are usually more concerned with the financial gains of their crimes. Regardless of the motive, a person who commits the offense of kidnapping often has disordered thinking, either as a result of a mental disorder, a personality disorder, or a combination of both.
The most unfortunate aspect of kidnappings, however, is the psychological effects it has on victims. People who have survived kidnapping often go on to battle issues of trust for the rest of their lives, as being deprived of freedom and being held against their will can erode trust in humanity as a whole. Some victims may even become distrustful of family members, believing their families didn't do enough to get them back or to protect them from being abducted in the first place. This can begin a vicious cycle of disordered thinking within victims' lives, leading to difficulty in relationships both personal and professional.
Furthermore, kidnapping victims may have psychological disturbances in other aspects of their everyday lives. Trouble sleeping is one of the most common reported psychological impacts of kidnapping, as the victims are afraid to fall asleep and let their guard down, lest they be taken again. Sexual effects are also likely in cases of kidnappings that involved sexual abuse. Survivors may find it hard to trust their partners or to allow themselves to be vulnerable. Victims of abduction may need many years of therapy to overcome the sexual damage of kidnapping, and to form healthy sexual relationships.
In terms of news coverage, the general public may be receiving a skewed vision of the reality of kidnappings and their effects. Unfortunately, the news media only choose to focus on a few select kidnapping cases, leading the public to believe kidnappings are uncommon and only take place among white, affluent communities. The reality is that kidnappings occur in all communities, and each case needs to have as much attention as any other. By only hearing reports of affluent or middle-class kidnappings, the public may tend to forget that in poorer neighborhoods and low-income areas, adults and children are abducted on a regular basis.
In terms of healing from the psychological strain of being a kidnap victim, psychologists typically recommend cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT involves allowing the victim to change their way of thinking, replacing negatives for positives, until they have reached a point in which their worldviews are different. An event such as a kidnapping can cause very deep negative connections to be made within the mind of a victim, and these connections need to be rewired in order to reach a point of normalcy once again.
In order to help defeat kidnappers and abduction attempts, it is imperative for parents and society as a whole to be more vigilant as to where their children are, as well as continue to educate them about avoiding dangerous situations. In the age of the Internet, this is even more important, as predators use this technology to gain access to children everyday. Moreover, the news media should to take more responsibility in their coverage of kidnapping cases, giving equal time to low-profile cases. Only when we all recognize the dangers that exist in all communities can we begin to eradicate the dangers our children face.
Allison Gamble has been a student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing.