The Stockholm Syndrome

Published January 16, 2007 by The Washington Times
By CMA Senior Policy Analyst Jonathan Imbody 

The miraculous discovery and rescue of 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, who spent four years in captivity ("Teen passed up chances to escape from abductor," Nation, Monday), provides an insight into the similarly dark and disturbing life experienced by the estimated 15,000 to 18,000 human slavery victims annually trafficked into the U.S. 

These individuals, mostly children and women, are captured, coerced or deceived into slavery for sex or forced labor. They often experience the same eventual bizarre identification with their captors that Shawn Hornbeck may have experienced, known as the Stockholm Syndrome. This psychological coping mechanism explains why many captured victims not only cease attempts to escape but also may even refuse to cooperate with law enforcement officials who rescue them. 

Shawn Hornbeck and 13-year-old Ben Ownby, another boy held captive with Shawn, are alive and resting safely in the arms of family today because 15-year-old Mitchell Hults took the time to observe and report to police a tip that helped crack the case. Americans should educate themselves about human trafficking so they, too, can observe and report clues that can tip off authorities to captors. 

Readers can find more information about human trafficking at www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/index.html and can report tips to the national hotline at 888-3737-888. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children also offers information at www.missingkids.com and a hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST® (1-800-843-5678).