Stockholm Syndrome: Was It the Reason It Took Amanda Berry So Long to Escape?

Police have yet to get the full accounts from the three women found Monday in Cleveland, Ohio, after being held captive for a decade. Amanda Berry, who was abducted in 2003 on the eve of her 17th birthday, drew the attention of a neighbor when he overheard her screaming for help. Berry called 911 after Angel Cordero assisted in her rescue. She exclaimed on the phone, “I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

Gina DeJesus, abducted at the age of 14 in April 2004, and Michele Knight who disappeared when she was 21 in 2002, were also discovered in the home owned by Ariel Castro, 52. Castro and his two brothers, Pedro and Onil Castro, were arrested Monday evening. A six year-old girl, believed to be Berry’s daughter, was also found inside the house as well. The father has not been identified. 

The discovery makes one wonder why that day in particular Amanda Berry heroically cried for help. Certainly Ariel Castro left the women alone at least once over a span of 10 years. It also makes one wonder whether or not victims subconsciously ignore opportunities to escape.

In abduction cases, there are always looming questions of whether or not victims suffer from Stockholm syndrome – a term coined after hostages in a 1973 Stockholm bank robbery displayed loyalty to their captors. High-profile cases such as Jaycee Dugard, Patty Hearst, and Shawn Hornbeck, featured victims who had identified with their captors in some capacity. Shawn Hornbeck called himself by the last name of the man who took him; Dugard never tried to escape even after numerous opportunities presented themselves; and Hearst even assisted her captors in a bank robbery.

Research from the FBI shows that it is not the length of an incident that is conducive to developing the condition, but the intensity combined with a period of time abductees are not abused. One factor to uncover in the Berry case is whether or not she was sexually assaulted and bore the child of Ariel Castro. If she did have Ariel Castro’s child, did that change her perception of him?

While it remains to be seen what condition these women are in, according to the same FBI report, 73% of captives show no evidence of Stockholm syndrome. Judging from the sound of Amanda Berry’s voice in her call to the police, she was distressed and feared for her life.