Sleeping with the Enemy


A syndrome is named after this city.

On August 23, 1973 two machine-gun toting criminals stormed into a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. Blasting their guns, one prison escapee named Jan-Erik Olsson announced to the terrified bank employees “The party has just begun!” The two then held four hostages – three women and one man – for the next 131 hours. The hostages were strapped with dynamite and held in a bank vault until they were finally rescued on August 28.

After their rescue, the hostages exhibited a shocking attitude considering they were threatened, abused, and feared for their lives for over five days. In media interviews, it was clear that they supported their captors and actually feared law enforcement personnel who came to their rescue. The hostages had begun to feel the captors were actually protecting them from the police. One woman later became engaged to one of the criminals and another developed a legal defense fund to aid in their criminal defense fees. Clearly, the hostages had “bonded” emotionally with their captors.

Clinical psychologist, Dr Joseph Carver confirms that the psychological condition in hostage situations now known as “Stockholm Syndrome” is a familiar phenomenon in psychology. However it had been recognized many years before and was found in studies of other hostage, prisoner, or abusive situations such as:

  • Abused Children
  • Battered/Abused Women
  • Prisoners of War
  • Cult Members
  • Incest Victims
  • Criminal Hostage Situations
  • Concentration Camp Prisoners
  • Controlling/Intimidating Relationships

Stockholm Syndrome can also be found in family, romantic, and interpersonal relationships. The abuser may be a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, father or mother, or any other role in which the abuser is in a position of control or authority.

Once the syndrome is understood, it’s easier to understand why victims support, love, and even defend their abusers and controllers.

This reminds me of someone who told her boyfriend:  “Abuse me all you want, it’s the only attention I get.”

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