You’re going about your business on what seems like an ordinary day. When, suddenly, attackers storm into your building, taking everyone hostage. Amidst the chaos, you try to make a break for the exit, but everything has already been blocked off.
You’re trapped and at your captor’s mercy. Now what?
While being taken hostage is a very rare situation, it still happens quite often across the world. Americans abducted abroad are the most likely to be killed, according to a 2017 study by New America. That’s mainly because the U.S. has a policy of not paying ransoms.
While some captors are in it for cash or fame, the most common hostage situations within North America are domestic disputes. If you want to increase your odds of being a hostage survivor, here are a few things to consider.
Should you interact with your captor? What’s the best escape plan? Will you be able to reintegrate into society?
Step 1: Escape Before It Begins
Your best chance of surviving a hostage situation is to not become a hostage in the first place. So, if someone is attempting to abduct you, do everything you can to get away before they secure full control.
Make a scene by yelling for help. Screaming “fire” usually works pretty well in getting people’s attention. If there is a physical struggle, don’t hesitate to kick, punch and scratch. Go for sensitive areas, like the throat, groin and eyes, to give yourself the chance to make a run for it.
Step 2: Avoid Attention
Once the captor overpowers you, change your approach to survival mode. The longer a hostage event takes place, the better your chances are of getting out alive.
Stay calm and maintain your composure. Follow all your captor’s instructions and only speak when spoken to. You don’t want to be labeled as a threat or a trouble maker.
In some situations, it might be wise to humanize yourself by creating a connection with the captor. But this mental tango might backfire if you start to develop real feelings for the hostage-taker. This twisted romance is called Stockholm Syndrome.
It’s impossible to know how long your situation will last, so try to stay positive and maintain a routine to keep your sanity.
Step 3: Map Out Your Escape
While in captivity, stay vigilant and start planning your escape. Make note of where you are, where the exits are located, and what could be used as a weapon.
Focus on memorizing details about your hostage-taker, like their alias, clothing, accent and any identifying markers. This information could help you later on if your captor manages to evade the authorities.
In a group hostage situation, try to find sneaky ways to communicate and organize with your fellow captives. But don’t get caught. Because the price could be fatal.
Step 4: Survive the Rescue
If you feel like a rescue operation is imminent, quietly get on the ground or behind a barrier. During a chaotic showdown, rescuers can’t always tell the good and bad guys apart. And you definitely don’t want to get caught in the crossfire.
Once you’ve been rescued, you won’t be a free bird right away. The authorities will need to interrogate you as part of their investigation. And, I hate to break it to you, but this entire ordeal will leave you with a lot of unprocessed trauma. Seek help from a psychologist and lean on your supportive family and friends.
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- “How Hostage Negotiation Works”. Howstuffworks.
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- “Top Ten Things You Learn From A Hostage Situation”. 2020. Association For Diplomatic Studies & Training.
- “Sydney chocolate cafe manager killed trying to wrestle weapon away from gunman during 16-hour siege”. 2020. nydailynews.com.
- “CNN.Com – Egyptian Releases German Hostages – March 15, 2001”. 2020. edition.cnn.com.
- “Egypt Tour Guide Takes 4 Hostages”. 2020. AP NEWS.