- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

Elizabeth Smart was "psychologically affected" by her kidnappers, police and relatives of the 15-year-old Salt Lake City girl said yesterday, and psychologists suggested that the girl had bonded with her abductors.
"There is clearly a psychological impact that occurred at some point," Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse said. "There is no question that she was psychologically affected."
The Utah teenager was joyously reunited with her family two days ago.
Tom Smart, Elizabeth's uncle, told a small group of reporters, "I think maybe she has been wildly converted to a weird thing." But he then rephrased his comment, saying, "I am tired, I shouldn't be saying that the Stockholm syndrome is what I mean."
Psychologists yesterday explained Stockholm syndrome as a phenomenon in which feelings of isolation and abandonment, and fears she might not survive, would cause Elizabeth to bond with those who held her hostage for nine months.
Amid the celebrations of Elizabeth's safe return one family member called the blond 15-year-old's recovery a "miracle" many in Salt Lake City and around the nation speculated why the girl could not escape the bearded drifter suspected of abducting her at knife point from her bedroom in June.
"Why Did She Not Escape?" asked a headline in the Salt Lake Tribune, the morning after police found her wandering the streets of suburban Sandy, 15 miles south of her home, with a homeless couple, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ilene Barzee.
Elizabeth told her family that she couldn't escape because she was watched constantly by Mr. Mitchell, 49, a self-proclaimed prophet known as Emmanuel, and Mrs. Barzee, his third wife.
"She said there was no way she had two people with her at all times," said Smart family spokesman David Thomas.
But the girl's father, Ed Smart, said yesterday: "I can just say that [Mr. Mitchell] did an absolute brainwashing job on her."
"The Stockholm syndrome is a really complex psychological problem, a survival mechanism that [some] hostages use during captivity. It's a paradoxical bonding with their abuser," said Edna Rawlings, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Cincinnati who has published extensively on the syndrome.
Captives affected by Stockholm syndrome come to feel sympathy, support and even affection for those holding them hostage. They come to regard the captor as the only person who can help them. Police and other authorities come to be seen as enemies.
Psychologist Rona M. Fields of Washington said the Stockholm syndrome could explain why Elizabeth did not flee her captors, even when she heard the voices of relatives calling for her just blocks away.
"It's at least one theory that has to be looked at," Ms. Rawlings said.
Stockholm syndrome got its name from a 1973 bank holdup in Sweden in which two robbers held three women and a man hostage for six days. The victims believed the police planned to kill them. One female hostage later became engaged to one of the criminals.
The syndrome became even better known when newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst, kidnapped at age 19 by a Marxist terrorist group, joined her Symbionese Liberation Army captors to commit a 1974 bank robbery.
The Symbionese Liberation Army convinced Miss Hearst "her parents didn't care about her," Ms. Fields said in an interview.
"Both Patty Hearst and Elizabeth Smart were at the age of development when a person is very susceptible to the kinds of loaded messages that are identified sometimes as brainwashing," Ms. Fields said.
"Brainwashing" a translation of the Chinese phrase xi nao, meaning to purify one's thoughts was first used during the Korean War to describe efforts by Communist Chinese interrogators to indoctrinate American prisoners of war and break their resistance to captivity.
There were accounts yesterday suggesting that Elizabeth did not take advantage of chances to flee her captors. Photographs taken at a September party in downtown Salt Lake City when the then-14-year-old girl's abduction was the subject of nationwide attention show the girl and Mrs. Barzee wearing veils, as Mr. Mitchell stands nearby drinking beer. Witnesses at the party say the girl never spoke.
Daniel Trotta, a Salt Lake City man who says he briefly sheltered Mr. Mitchell, his wife and Elizabeth in his apartment in the fall, told the Associated Press the girl never expressed fear or tried to escape, though there were opportunities.
At the end of her nine-month captivity, Elizabeth resisted rescue. Police officers say that when they questioned the girl on the streets of Sandy, she at first denied her identity. "It took some time before we could determine that it was her," said Sandy Police Chief Stephen Chapman.
Dr. David Fassler, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Burlington, Vt., says he would not ascribe Elizabeth's actions to Stockholm syndrome without interviewing the kidnapped child.
"Just because someone doesn't escape doesn't necessarily mean they have identified with or accepted their captors," said Dr. Fassler, who also teaches at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. "These are complex and tragic situations, each with unique circumstances and dynamics."
Ms. Rawlings cites four conditions necessary for the Stockholm syndrome:
The kidnapped person feels her survival is threatened.
The captive feels that she cannot escape.
She feels her captor is powerful and that she is "critically isolated."
The abductor shows her some kindness, such as offering her a drink of water. "If the captor has threatened her and then shows her kindness, she's really going to work to keep that kindness coming," Ms. Rawlings said.
She said Elizabeth undoubtedly regarded her kidnapper as powerful, "given that he just walked into her bedroom and took her." He was able to destroy her "whole feeling of safety."
"When someone feels isolated, abandoned and insecure … their sense of self is so vulnerable." Hearing only one message, the captive is likely to identify with the lone messenger "without a lot of thought."
The message the kidnapped child is getting is "so powerful," because it's "not being refuted by anything in her experience," Ms. Fields said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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