I had the pleasure of interviewing Patty Beeken, President of www.FourTheKids.org on the very first episode of my Radio show www.MissingPieces.info in September of 2006.
I ask Patty some questions recently for the show’s Text Edition column.
Todd: How common is the problem called Stockholm Syndrome? I know it seems more common in children, but depending on the age of the child, they might actually be brainwashed or unaware of the truth. But one has to think…if an abducted child is alive and well, they might not always be kept in a basement as a hostage, they might actually be out and about, either aware or unaware of their identity. Can you comment on this?
Patty: I spent a bit of time researching and thinking about this. I believe that with most child abductions such as Steven Stayner and the more recent case of Shawn Hornbeck start out with a much more insidious progression of events. We have been told by Shawn’s family that his abductor threatened to kill his entire family if he attempted to get away.
In Steven Stayner’s case the line of reasoning began with his abductor Kenneth Parnell told him that his family had sold him to him. I feel that this leads to the events where the child has no one else to turn to so they do what they are told. Once you look at the events in this light it is a tough call to determine Stockholm Syndrome or just plan survival mode. When you tell a child the lies that threaten his basic comfort zones such as family and love and make him feel totally abandoned it is difficult to make a clear judgement of Syndrome vs. survival.
Basically we need to determine if the child has actually become attached to the person or if he/she is just doing what needs to be done for survival.
Children are very good at adapting to behavior that keeps them safer, as evidenced by how many are abused by others and do not tell.
Todd: According to John D. Robins-Wells with Wisconsin Center for Missing Children & Adults www.wcmckids.org this is very common and happens daily.
I quote John here:
“The FEAR that is embedded into their mind is very real. We have de-briefed several that believed their family had been severly harmed or killed and those that were not, would be if they said one word. This is a very serious subject that needs a lot of attention and awareness done on it.”
Todd: As parent how can I prepare for this? It’s easy to tell your kids about talking to strangers of course. But the abductors are becoming more and more crafty and elaborate. Once they get a child away, and have the time, they can begin brainwashing. But there must be some sort of preliminary steps we can take to try to establish a way to prepare.
Patty: How to prepare your child? I would say that communication plays a huge part here. I know that just talking to the child is not enough. One thing that we at 4thekids advocate is to set a code word. You must make sure your child is able to repeat the code back to you. You also must make yourself completely sure that your child understands that if the person who is attempting to get him/her to go somewhere with them does not know the CODE WORD they should not go with them. You should also give this code word to school or daycare or perhaps have a totally different word for these people, that way the code words would have to be matched by not only your child’s knowledge but also the school or daycare workers. I cannot stress enough that this practice is an over all shield to put around your children.
Teach your children to kick and scream their heads off if someone approacheds them. Practice with them!
There is plenty of information out there about training kids about how to avoid stranger danger. 4thekids does teach children hands on about how to break free from hold and other things about how to disable a car etc.
But above all make sure they know that if someone is not able to repeat the code word to them they are not telling them the truth! If the child knows from the start they are being lied to it will be much harder to make them fall into line.
We truly believe that teaching the code word is a probably one of the most, if not the most important part of any teaching you can do with your children.
Todd: So awareness at all levels of society is important. From the children to the top political leaders. The entire community has a role to play in the cause. Everyone is a potential set of eyes and ears.
Patty: We as a nation all need to become more conscious of what is happening around us. If you see something suspicious take a few minutes to do some checking.
We need to be more willing to have news about missing children. I am not just talking about those of us in the missing child service community but real news. TV News! Unless your child has been missing you have no idea how difficult it is to get any type of publicity or media coverage. Unless Law Enforcement requests it most news programs will not even show a face. What gets kids found??? Pictures of them!
This is part of the reason I have a problem with Amber Alert. If you are driving down the highway and you see an Amber Alert you need to look for a license plate number. There is no way to show a picture of a missing child when you are out on the road. Who sees pictures of these kids? Internet people who are at home on their computers.
Occasionally there will be a picture on TV but not very often so if the child is no longer attached to that vehicle there is no way to know who you are looking for.
Don’t get me wrong Amber Alert is a good program but there has to be something more!
Todd: True enough, it is hard to imagine having to live life with a missing loved one. especially a child. There can not be enough attention paid to this cause. Please check out the web-site www.FourTheKids.org, there are some amazing resources there for prevention and reaction.
The Internet has opened doors that have helped involved organization make leaps and bounds though communication.
There’s no one out there than cannot benefit from this knowledge. You are either a victim, a loved one, a potential witness, or a lawmaker. It will take all of us working together to effect the cause.