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Elizabeth Smart Found Alive

Abducted from her bedroom June 5, 2002, and feared dead, Elizabeth Smart was found alive just outside Salt Lake City on March 12, 2003.

The girl, now 15, was found with a homeless person. Brian David Mitchell, AKA Emmanuel, was pulled over in a traffic stop after witnesses recognized him from a news conference held recently. He was a street preacher who had been hired for one day to work as a contractor by the Smart family and was sought by police for questioning in the case. The younger sister, Mary Elizabeth, who was in the bedroom when Elizabeth was abducted at gunpoint, had identified the man who kidnapped her sister as having the same mannerisms as Mitchell.

Another man who had worked at the Smart home, Richard Ricci, died of a cerebral hemorrhage while being held in Utah State Prison on unrelated theft and burglary charges. He had been questioned about Smart's abduction and police felt he hadn't been completely truthful, but never named him explicitly as a suspect.

Elizabeth was taken into protective custody by Salt Lake City PD at the scene. Her uncle was reported to have said that "miracles can happen." Her parents had been resigned to never finding her alive.


Source: CNN

"Stockholm Syndrome" and the Elizabeth Smart Case

Stockholm Syndrome describes the behavior of kidnap victims who, over time, become sympathetic to their captors. The name derives from a 1973 hostage incident in Stockholm, Sweden. At the end of six days of captivity in a bank, several kidnap victims actually resisted rescue attempts, and afterwards refused to testify against their captors.

While some people are suggesting the recent Elizabeth Smart kidnapping sounds like a case of Stockholm Syndrome, the most famous incident in the U.S. involved the kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst. Captured by a radical political group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974, Ms. Hearst eventually became an accomplice of the group, taking on an assumed name and assisting them in several bank robberies. After her re-capture, she denounced the group and her involvement.

What causes Stockholm Syndrome? Captives begin to identify with their captors initially as a defensive mechanism, out of fear of violence. Small acts of kindness by the captor are magnified, since finding perspective in a hostage situation is by definition impossible. Rescue attempts are also seen as a threat, since it's likely the captive would be injured during such attempts.

It's important to note that these symptoms occur under tremendous emotional and often physical duress. The behavior is considered a common survival strategy for victims of interpersonal abuse, and has been observed in battered spouses, abused children, prisoners of war, and concentration camp survivors.

The Peace Encyclopedia: The Stockholm Syndrome

 
Salt Lake City, Utah, police are seeking a 26-year-old man for questioning in the disappearance of Elizabeth Smart.


Elizabeth Smart Search Center
 
Details the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart on June 5, 2002, and provides recent pictures of the 14-year-old girl. Includes news, links,
and a tip hotline.



Handyman In Elizabeth Smart Case Dies

Richard Ricci, the one-time handyman whom police questioned in the abduction of teenager Elizabeth Smart, died Friday night, a family spokeswoman said.
 

Elizabeth Smart Could Hear Searchers' Calls
Find out where Elizabeth was when she could hear searchers calling her name any why she could not go to them.

Why Didn't Elizabeth Smart Escape?

Elizabeth Smart, kidnapped and kept for nine months, apparently had ample opportunity to escape. Why didn't she?

Alan Hilfer, PhD, child psychologist with Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, speculates that in Elizabeth Smart's case, she came to identify with her kidnappers. She began to understand and empathize with their reason for kidnapping her -- whatever that reason was.

Hilfer explains, "It's not that she made a conscious decision that these people were right to kidnap me. It's her mind trying to understand the horror of the situation and justify the reasons for it. It's the mind's way of saying 'This is what I need to do survive. I need to believe there's a reason for this, that these people make sense in their demands.'"

For Elizabeth Smart, this unconscious attachment to her captors could develop to prevent more harm. If she resisted their violence, she likely would get beaten more, for example. But if she says, "I understand, I understand," she won't get hurt as much, he tells WebMD.

This attachment process takes time to develop, Hilfer says. "It's a process of indoctrination. It's why a girl who appears to be a relatively bright, articulate 15-year-old doesn't run to a policeman in a town 15 miles away from her home. It's because there's a level of identification with her aggressors."

Barry Rosenfeld, PhD, a forensic psychologist at Fordham University in New York, has doubts that Elizabeth Smart was experiencing Stockholm syndrome. Rosenfeld offers other scenarios: Elizabeth's captors may have lied to her. She may have been told that her parents had been killed. She may have been told that her parents or sister would be killed if she tried to escape.

Because of her age, Elizabeth is not the typical abducted child, Rosenfeld acknowledges. "When a 14-year-old disappears, the first thought is that she's run away. But I don't see any basis for that. She certainly didn't seem reluctant to come home."

"But at 14 years old, she's probably somewhat naive," he tells WebMD. "It's easy to mislead a girl that age, easy to convince her that if you don't do this, your sister's life depends on it. So we just don't know what impressions she had. And that's the crucial factor, what was she thinking, what did she believe the situation was."

"For all we know, the captors may have pretended to be working with police," Rosenfeld says.

Elizabeth Smart is likely just beginning to realize what has happened to her, Rosenfeld says. "I'm not sure how much trauma has sunk in. ... It had to be traumatic being pulled from her home. We just don't know what happened. What was their motive -- was it some bizarre sexual cult? We just don't know."

Can she live a normal life after all this? Absolutely, says Hilfer.

"I've known people who have overwhelmed me with their power to survive, by their will to live," he tells WebMD. "I'm speaking of Holocaust survivors, people who have survived terrible traumas in their lives -- and yet they have led healthy, productive lives afterward. Is it always a part of them at some level? Sure. We all bear our scars. But she'll hopefully be able to heal. I'm not sure she will get totally past it. She needs time to get past it."

Excerpts from the full story at WebMD:

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