From: Wade T. Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sun 16 Mar 2003 - 05:38:39 GMT
After girl's rescue, questions on why she didn't run away
By Tatsha Robertson and Irene Sege, Globe Staff, 3/15/2003
SALT LAKE CITY - Why didn't she run away? Why didn't she readily admit
she was Elizabeth Smart when police found her with the couple who had
allegedly held her captive for nine months? How could she walk by all
those posters with her picture on them and not say anything?
These are the questions swirling since 15-year-old Elizabeth Smart was
reunited with her parents in Salt Lake City and as evidence emerges
that she stayed close to her captors even when they went to public
places. Yet as perplexing as those questions seem, psychologists and
other specialists are not surprised she didn't bolt.
''The bottom line is that there is an instinct for survival when you're
subjected to frightening conditions,'' says Robert Prentky, a forensic
psychologist in Bridgewater, Mass. ''Your instinct to survive is
stronger than your instinct to hate your captor. It's a natural
Elizabeth's ordeal is being compared to cases where hostages come to
identify with their captors and cult leaders exercise psychological
control over vulnerable, often young, recruits. Though little is known
about what the girl endured after she was allegedly kidnapped at
knifepoint from her bedroom, a body of research might offer insights
into the girl's behavior and the emotional journey ahead for her.
Brian David Mitchell, the drifter and street preacher accused of
abducting Elizabeth in June 2002, was a self-proclaimed polygamist who
was excommunicated from the Mormon Church, but considered himself a
prophet, police say. For months, Mitchell, who calls himself Emmanuel,
and his wife, Wanda Barzee, allegedly held Elizabeth in the mountains
near the Smart family's home. All together, the coercion, isolation,
religious fervor, and Elizabeth's youth may well have led the girl to
tell the police officers who found the trio in Sandy, Utah, that she
was Mitchell's daughter Augustine.
''We took her aside,'' said Officer Bill O'Neal of the Sandy Police
Department. ''She just kind of blurted out, `I know who you think I am.
You guys think I'm that Elizabeth Smart girl who ran away.''' She
didn't disclose her identity until her father arrived at the police
''There is clearly a psychological impact that occurred at some
point,'' said Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse.
In what has come to be known as Stockholm syndrome, coined after a
robbery at a Swedish bank in 1973, hostages can become emotionally
attached to their captors. The first stage is terror; the second is
isolation from the outside world. Gradually the victim shifts from
trying to please the abductors for fear of being hurt to simply trying
to please them. The people depriving the hostages of freedom are the
same ones providing food and shelter. ''It's out of fear that you start
obeying your abductor and through that process become dependent and
attached,'' said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at
Perhaps the most famous case of a kidnap victim taking on the identity
of her kidnappers is that of heiress Patty Hearst. She was abducted by
the radical Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 and later jailed for
participating with them in a bank heist. ''You have been so abused and
robbed of your free will and so frightened that you believe any lie
that your abductors have told you,'' Hearst told CNN's Larry King on
A similar dynamic is at work in cults, specialists say. Although Dwayne
Baird, spokesman for the Salt Lake City police, declines to discuss
reports that Mitchell kidnapped Elizabeth to make her his wife, he says
investigators are poring over a 27-page document in which the suspect
talks of assembling a harem. Authorities also say Mitchell may have
tried to abduct Elizabeth's 18-year-old cousin, Jessica Wright, in July.
In ''The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah,'' seized Thursday in Montana
from one of Mitchell's relatives, he describes polygamy as a lost
''blessing'' and refers to himself as a ''just and merciful'' God who can restore lost blessings to those who do not sin. One passage, in which he appears to address his wife by a biblical name, says, ''Thou wilt take into thy heart and home seven sisters, and thou wilt recognize them through the spirit as thy dearest and choicest friends from all eternity.''
When police urged Elizabeth to confirm her identity shortly after they
found her, she replied with the words ''Thou sayest.'' Mitchell and
Barzee chanted ''Things are in the hands of the Lord'' when they were
arrested, police say. Police originally said Mitchell referred to
himself as ''Emmanuel,'' but in a police report and in his so-called
manifesto, he calls himself ''Immanuel.''
''What we're dealing with here is a systematic stripping of her
identity and reprogramming her with a new identity,'' said Steven
Hassan, a Somerville mental health counselor and specialist on cults.
''We're talking about a 14-year-old girl whose identity is being
shaped,'' said Jack Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology at
Northeastern University who has done research on cults. ''She's
malleable, easily manipulated, suggestible. She makes the perfect
Elizabeth was raised in the same religion her alleged abductor claims
to represent. ''The culture comes to play because she was raised to be
a very compliant child,'' said Doug Goldsmith, director of the
Children's Center, a counseling service in Salt Lake City. ''We know
now that she was not a street kid or worldly child.''
As vulnerable as a teenager is, studies suggest that adults held as
prisoners of war or in hijackings exhibit some of the same behavior
Elizabeth did. Specialists say her youth probably will figure in her
At a time when most girls her age are focusing on school and friends as
they establish identities separate from their parents, Elizabeth may
well have been losing her identity in captivity.
''The emotional upheaval that is often attributed to adolescence may
have been muted when she was put in a role where she had to be
subservient,'' said Ann Burgess, a professor of psychiatric nursing at
Boston College who has studied abducted children. ''A normal behavioral
response following trauma is anger - to be rebellious.
''Girls aren't as prone to fighting and yelling. She may withdraw. She
may be very sensitive to what people say to her,'' Burgess said.
''These are normal responses to this abnormal situation.''
''Traumatic events can have consequences over a life course,'' said
Linda Williams, research director at the Stone Center at Wellesley
College. ''It doesn't mean a person isn't doing well if they have to
revisit it later on.''
Material from the Associated Press was used in the compilation of this
report. Robertson reported from Salt Lake City, Sege from Boston.
This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 3/15/2003. © Copyright
2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
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