Further proof that Bill O’Reilly is an idiot…
Posted by abu ameerah on Monday, January 22, 2007
Apparently Bill O’Reilly – the most powerful name in cable crap news – is a child psychologist, mental health therapist, and a criminal profiler because he seems to know an awful lot about this particular child abduction case. Perhaps Bill O’Reilly is just another right-of-center windbag that gets too much media attention. Nah, that’s probably just the fundamentalist in me thinking out loud.
The captivity riddle
Globe and Mail Update
Shawn Hornbeck’s kidnapper stole his childhood, threatened him and may have sexually abused him.
But in the four years since the boy was snatched off the street in Richwoods, Mo., Shawn’s captor also allowed him to ride his bike alone for hours, sleep over at friends’ houses and use the Internet.
So when Shawn was discovered last week, miraculously alive at the home of pizza-parlour worker Michael Devlin, it was easy to wonder: Why didn’t he run? Call for help? Why didn’t he escape?
The answers may be hard to understand for someone who hasn’t been in the shoes of a terrified young kidnap victim. Experts say the questions themselves, from the media and the public, also show a rather ugly side of human nature — our eagerness to distance ourselves from terrible events.
“It’s sort of like blaming the victim,” says Dr. Ann Dietrich, a Vancouver psychologist who specializes in trauma. “We don’t want to believe it would happen to us or someone we’re close to.”
Shawn disappeared when he was 11. Police discovered him, now 15 years old, when they tracked down William (Ben) Ownby, an 11-year-old boy who was kidnapped just days earlier, allegedly by the same man.
On Thursday, Shawn’s parents told Oprah Winfrey that they believe their son was sexually abused.
“You’re taught all your life to respect adults . . . and then we all expect him to make some sort of spectacular escape? How unreasonable of us,” says Liz Ballendine, development director for the Missing Children Society of Canada. “I don’t think anyone has the right to criticize or judge what he did.”
That didn’t stop Bill O’Reilly from blasting the young victim on his show this week.
He quipped that Shawn must have enjoyed his captivity because he didn’t try to escape — and when angry viewers complained, Mr. O’Reilly posted an online memo reiterating his view, and disparaging both the victim and his parents.
“It is hard for me to believe that a normal kid would stay in a horrible environment when escape was easy, especially if the child had confidence in his parents,” Mr. O’Reilly wrote.
“No question this monster Devlin made threats and intimidated Shawn. But teenagers have brains and Shawn had the freedom to get away if he wanted to.”
Escaping a kidnapper is not as simple as brains and courage, though. Adults can be cowed in such situations, and children are even easier to manipulate.
“If you’re threatened with your life, or your family’s life, and it’s beyond anything you have experienced . . . it leads to a condition of helplessness and hopelessness, and it leads to a perception that survival depends on total compliance,” says Dr. Alan Manevitz, a psychiatrist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “Soon, you look to the captor to meet all your needs.”
That psychological breakdown can happen in just two to three days, Dr. Manevitz adds.
Natascha Kampusch and the captor who held her for eight years went on a ski holiday together — when he wasn’t forcing the Austrian girl to live in a cell in his basement and call him “master.”
She finally escaped last year, and her kidnapper, Wolfgang Priklopil, killed himself soon after. Ms. Kampusch said she was mourning him, in a way, because he was part of her life.
“To give you a metaphor — he carried me in his arms but also trampled me underfoot,” the 18-year-old said in a statement read by her psychiatrist.
Out of necessity, kidnap victims become closely attuned to their captors’ moods and often focus on small acts of kindness — being allowed to use the washroom, for example, or simply being allowed to live.
“You become hypersensitive to the captor’s ideas and needs,” Dr. Manevitz says. “You start to see the world through your captor’s eyes.”
Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped in 2002 from her bedroom in Salt Lake City by a religious zealot who had chosen her to be one of his wives. After a period of intense brainwashing, she followed her captor through several different cities — going to parties and restaurants dressed in a veil that hid her face. When police found her nine months later, she was initially hesitant to say who she really was.
Of course, identifying with one’s captors is nothing new. Perhaps the most famous example is the 1973 Norrmalmstorg bank robbery in Stockholm. During the five days they were held hostage, the bank employees came to sympathize with the robbers and defended them against the police.
The roots of the same phenomenon show up even earlier in fairy tales such as Beauty and the Beast, in which the heroine falls in love with her captor. And the very real stories of women who stay with abusive spouses are all too common, and rarely questioned.
So why do we keep asking the same question of children who have endured horrific trauma?
It’s a very human defence mechanism, in a way. According to Dr. Dietrich, most of us subscribe to what’s called the “just world hypothesis” — we want to believe that the world is safe and fair, so subconsciously we assume traumatic events won’t happen to us or our children.
In the face of tragedy, we also hold fast to the notion that we would do what it takes to escape a grim fate.
“We all like to think if we were in a particular situation, we’d react in a certain way, but I don’t think that holds true,” Ms. Ballendine says. “I don’t think anyone can understand what it’s like unless they are in that exact situation.”
Indeed, Dr. Manevitz says there’s only one way the public or the media should judge the actions of a kidnap victim. “The fact that anyone survives,” he says, “means they did the right thing.”