She had a huge crush on the boy. She was only 9 but he was much older. A mere 14 years of age but old enough to know what he was doing. Picking up on the fact that she didn’t feel good about herself, he honed in on her crush and took advantage of it.
Opportunities presented themselves in which on-line chats were formed. He told her how pretty she was and that no one would love her the way he did. He said all the right words for her to hear. Feeling so unworthy at such a young age, she soaked up the praises being bestowed upon her and was willing to do anything in return for his devotion.
Then it happened. This day she could do something for him. This was not how she wanted to make him happy, but she felt obligated because he was so kind to her.
“I want you to take off your shirt,” he said. She balked at the idea because it felt so wrong to her. But then, she had changed her mind. Why? “If you don’t do this, I will kill you and your family. I have done a lot for you. I’m your master now. You have no one but me because I know the real you. So do what I say,” he threatened.
As time went on, she continued to keep the conversation and the acts of obedience going. It was becoming more and more difficult as he asked more of her. She felt depressed and torn because he was the only one there for her and she wanted to appease him. However, she also looked for ways to deal with the pain. Cutting helped her deal with her emotional turmoil. She didn’t mean to, but it was the only thing to take her mind off of how she really felt…trapped and unworthy.But he cared for her, right? He said so many good and wonderful things to her. He told her about his rough life, the violence, and his home life. She felt so sorry for him. “No wonder he was angry all the time,” she thought.
Continuing to please him, she did what she was told. She was submissive but in the back of her mind scared. She would defend him if she had too. In her mind it was the right thing to do.
Then one day, he vanished. After two years there were no more chats, no more seeing him, and no more communication. She was left wondering if she did something wrong. Was she nothing to him? Was she not pretty anymore? If he came back, she would do anything for him. Did he not love her anymore? Did she say something that hurt him? She feels so lost and unloved even more than before.
As time went by, she got older. She thought of him once in a while but she had her own problems now. She thought she was ugly, worthless and that her body was abnormal. She would spend hours looking at other bodies on the internet. Why can’t she look like them? Her self-image was getting lower and lower. All the boys she liked were older and bad for her. Maybe she should be bad too. That was all she knew. She didn’t deserve a nice boy. She didn’t deserve to live. At least, that is what she thought.
In 1973, several criminals entering a bank in Sweden, held hostages for 131 hours. They were abused, afraid, threatened and then tied up with dynamite until they were rescued 5 days later.
Although it was a horrific experience for the hostages, what became more shocking is the response of those victims towards their captors. The victims became compassionate towards the kidnappers and felt sorry for them. During that captivity, they became bonded by their emotions and we as the public became informed and surprised by this condition known today as the “Stockholm Syndrome”.
This psychological condition was recognized in other situations as well, such as abused children, battered and abused women, prisoners of war, incest victims and relationships ruled by intimidation and control. Now we may not understand why a victim would feel for the captor, but it is a way of survival and coping for that individual. In fact, it is common to see this in family, romantic/marital and other scenarios in which abuse is the key factor.
Today we are seeing a rise in abuse among teenagers and young children. Many of them do not defend themselves or don’t know how. And for some, they will only defend their abuser. But why would they defend and even die for the abuser in the first place? And what is going through their mind in these situations?
Positive feelings by the victim toward their abuser are pretty common. The victim will often have negative feelings against anyone that would pull them apart. Furthermore, the victim will give support for the abuser with all kinds of excuses and reasons for the abusers behavior.
The abuser will give positive emotions toward the victim to get support for their behavior. This happens quite often in abuse cases and why it is so difficult for the crime to be punished. It is a vicious cycle and difficult for the victim to be separated from their abuser.
I need to make clear that not everyone suffers the Stockholm Syndrome if they were in an abusive situation. For example, the infamous Ariel Castro’s Kidnappings of 3 women held against their will for over 10 years. They were thankful for their rescue and live mostly in seclusion to build their lives again with help and counseling. None of them expressed remorse or support for their captor.
So how do we even begin to understand teens in crisis who may possibly be suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome?
In this true story, there was a perceived threat to this young girl. The young boy let her know of his past which was violent. So for this young girl, if she didn’t follow through on his command, that threat would be carried out.
She also saw hope by the good things he said and did, so she felt that there was a kind side to him. But this was part of his manipulation. He could have her in his grasp by doing these positive things every once in a while to make the victim feel that the relationship is improving.
He showed his “soft side” by allowing her into his past and the horrible things that happened to him. So then the girl sees her abuser as a victim too. She feels sorry for him that maybe she could fix him or make him happy. Sometimes he says he’s sorry but it was because of those bad things in his life that make him bad.
Each day her decisions were made based on how his response would be. So she became more obedient and isolated. That is exactly his goal. Keep her from reaching out to others. He was the main source for her needs and that in itself gave him a lot of power.
As the relationship gets deeper and more controlling, the victim will perceive that they have this inability to escape their situation for many different reasons. In some cases a pre-teen or teen can even feel attached or attracted to someone who can keep things in control or have a lot of confidence which is the opposite of who they are.
There is so much more to understand about this condition. But if you have a family member or teen in this situation, there are things you can and shouldn’t do. I would seek out a counselor to give you the advice that you need if you suspect your teen is in an abusive relationship.
Just remember, there is hope and help for kids and teens that have been found to be in an abusive situation or relationship. It takes time, lots of it. And it takes good counseling and a support team to help your child and you as a family.
As to the story of this young girl, she is doing quite well. She is still moving forward with counseling but she has learned a lot and how to keep herself safe. Out of respect to her and her family, I have not divulged her name and other pertinent information due to the sensitivity of this nature. She is thankful for very supportive parents and hopes that no one else goes through what she has endured.