Kidnapping Survival Guidelines

Kidnapping is a terrifying experience, but you probably possess more personal resources than you think to cope with the situation. Remember, you are of value to your kidnappers only if you are alive, and they want to keep you that way. Your best defense is passive cooperation. The more time passes, the better your chances of being released alive.

Kidnapping can happen anywhere -- you can be taken off the street, from a car, or from your hotel room or residence. If escape is impossible or too risky, you should nevertheless try to cause as much commotion as safely possible to draw attention to the situation. You need to make others aware that an abduction has taken place so that the authorities are notified and the search can begin. Otherwise, it could be hours or days before your absence is reported.

Once you have been forced into a vehicle, you may be blindfolded, beaten (to cause unconsciousness), drugged, or forced to lie face down on the floor of the vehicle. In some instances, hostages have been forced into trunks or specially built compartments for transporting contraband. If drugs are administered, do not resist. Their purpose will be to sedate you and make you more manageable. It is probably better to be drugged than to be beaten unconscious. If you are conscious, follow your captors’ instructions.

While being confined and transported, do not struggle. Calm yourself mentally and concentrate on surviving. Attempt to visualize the route being taken, make a mental note of turns, street noise, smells, etc. Try to keep track of the amount of time spent between points.

Once you have arrived at your destination, you may be placed in a temporary holding area before being moved again to a more permanent detention site. If you are interrogated:

  • Retain a sense of pride but act cooperative.
  • Divulge only information that cannot be used against you.
  • Do not antagonize your interrogator with obstinate behavior.
  • Concentrate on surviving. If you are to be used as a bargaining tool or to obtain ransom, you will be kept alive.

After reaching what you may presume to be your permanent detention site (you may be moved several more times), quickly settle into the situation.

  • Be observant. Notice the details of the room, the sounds of activity in the building and determine the layout of the building by studying what is visible to you. Listen for sounds through walls, windows or out in the streets, and try to distinguish between smells. Note the physical characteristics and habits of your captors. Try to memorize this information so that you can report it after your release.
  • Know your captors. Memorize their schedule, look for patterns of behavior to be used to your advantage, and identify weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Use this information to assess opportunities to escape.
  • Expect to be accused of being an intelligence agent and to be interrogated intensively. Do not admit to any accusations. Keep your answers short and don't volunteer information or make unnecessary overtures.
  • Try to establish a rapport with your captors. Family is a universal subject. Avoid political dialogues or other controversial subjects, but listen attentively to their point of view. If you know your captors' language, use it.
  • Speak normally. Don't complain. Avoid being belligerent and comply with all orders and instructions. Once a level of rapport or communication is achieved, try asking for items which will increase your personal comfort. Don't be afraid to ask for anything you need or want such as medicines, books, or papers. Make requests in a reasonable, low-key manner.
  • Plan on a lengthy stay and devise a way to keep track of the passage of time. If isolated, you can approximate time by noting changes in temperatures between night and day, the frequency and intensity of outside noises (traffic, birds), and by observing the alertness of guards.
  • Establish a daily schedule of mental as well as physical activity. If your movement is extremely limited, use isometric and flexing exercises to keep your muscles toned. To maintain your strength, eat what you are given even if it does not look appetizing and you don't feel hungry. Use relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
  • If you detect the presence of other hostages in the same building, devise ways to communicate.

Do not be uncooperative, antagonistic, or hostile towards your captors. Hostages who display this type of behavior are often kept captive longer or are singled out for torture or punishment.

Watch for signs of "Stockholm Syndrome" which occurs when the captive, due to the close proximity and the constant pressures involved, begins to relate to, and empathize with, the captors. In some cases, this relationship has resulted in the hostage becoming empathetic to the point that he/she actively participates in the activities of the group. Establish a friendly rapport with your captors, but maintain your personal dignity and do not compromise your integrity.

Remember, time is on your side. Eventually you will probably be released or rescued. Do not try to escape unless you are certain of success. If you are able to escape, go first to a US Embassy or Consulate to seek protection. If you cannot reach either, go to a host government or friendly government office. If an attempt is made to rescue you, keep a low profile and immediately follow all instructions.

Military personnel and others should review the information available at the Department of Defense Antiterrorism Assistance Web Site. The web address is http://www.dtic.mil/jcs/force_protection. This site includes the Service Member's Personal Protection Guide, which includes the DoD Code of Conduct for Personnel Subject to Terrorist Activity. It also includes CINC/Theater-specific requirements.

 

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