Keywords: Stockholm syndrome, traumatic bonding.
Loving the Abuse Perpetrator. What is Stockholm syndrome? How does Stockholm syndrome come about? Stockholm syndrome symptoms and signs. Does the syndrome occur in Nigeria? What are the side effects or complications of Stockholm syndrome? Stockholm syndrome treatment.
Under normal circumstances, the relationship between a person who perpetrates abuse and the victim is usually strained. They often dislike each other to the point of hatred in most cases.
But there are occasions where the victim accepts the abuser as a friend and bonds very closely with the abuser. In such a case, the victim will resist any rescue attempts and will prefer to stay in the abusive situation. This is the typical example of loving the abuse perpetrator or Stockholm syndrome.
What is Stockholm syndrome?
Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response shown by a captive in a kidnapper-hostage situation. This victim forms a psychological connection with the captors and begins to sympathize with them. This is because apart from the threats or abusers the captors occasionally show little forms of kindness to the victim. With this little form of kindness the victim develops a positive feeling toward the abductors over time. And the victim will resist any rescue operations and may even hate the police for perpetrating the rescue. So in court, the victim will side the abductors and refuse to say things against them.
Stockholm syndrome is also known as traumatic bonding. So it can also be seen in other types of trauma, such as abuse trauma situations. These include all forms of child abuse including child sexual abuse, intimate partner abuse, in political situations, cultism, etc.
In politics, Stockholm syndrome can develop when there has been so much corruption in governance for years. The anger of the citizens are suppressed. This is to the point that the citizens lose hope for a better future and depend on the corrupt government.
They attach themselves to the corrupt governance because they believe that their being alive depend on the government. And corruption and abuse in governance is then seen as normal. When this happens, it becomes normal to vote for corrupt and abusive politicians in future elections.
In summary, Stockholm syndrome involves a situation whereby a victim develops positive feelings toward the abuser or aggressor. The victim refuses to cooperate with police force during rescue operations and also refuses to escape from the situation.
This is because the victim comes to share the same belief of the aggressor. And the aggressor is no more seen as a threat.
How does Stockholm syndrome come about?
There are a lot of theories trying to explain the causes or risk factors to Stockholm syndrome.
For Stockholm syndrome to occur there need be a significant face to face interaction between the perpetrator and the victim. This face to face interaction provides opportunities for the two to bond with one another.
Threats to life:
The perpetrator makes many threats to the life of the victim that are not carried out. The victim becomes confused.
Fear and helplessness:
The victim has fear of grave danger in the hands of the captive or the abuse perpetrator. And the victim believes that there is no escape channel.
This isolation, deprivation and poor living conditions can lead the victim to complete dependence on the perpetrator for survival. And this includes loving the abuse perpetrator.
An illusion is created:
It is important to understand that captive or abuse situation is highly an emotional situation. So it is a defense mechanism the victim makes use of to feel safe.
With the occasional forms of kindness from the abuser, the victim will forget the abuse occasions. And creates an illusion for himself or herself that the environment is safe.
In the case of the child – parent relationship, the child magnifies those few moments of attention shown by the parents. By doing this, the child sees the parents as the best parents.
The child forgets the long term abuse and believes that the parents still loves him or her. And the child believes that the parent will stop the maltreatment if he or she becomes more attached to them.
Lack of trust in the system:
The victim in Stockholm syndrome actually does not have trust in the system that is supposed to protect him or her.
So in hostage situation, the victim has no trust in the power of the police to protect him or her. And in the case of the abused child, the child doesn’t believe that there is any protection system in place.
Thus the victim believes that the situation in the outside world is not better than what is presently being experienced.
Stockholm syndrome symptoms and signs.
The symptoms include, having positive feelings about the captors or abusers and sympathizing with them. And the victim believes in the abuser’s cause and ideologies.
The victim does not trust the police, authority figures or anyone who is out to help. He or she will do nothing to escape from the condition and will refuse being helped out of the situation.
There is fear and anxiety about the situation. Such a victim is hypervigilant in trying to meet the expectations of the abuser. And there could be flashbacks about past traumatic experiences.
The person has poor concentration and feels sad or depressed with poor sleep. There is the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness.
Even after being rescued from the traumatic situation, the victim will refuse pressing charges against the perpetrator. And even when the case is brought to court, the victim will refuse to testify against the perpetrator. The victim will side with the perpetrator even in court.
The victim blames himself or herself for the maltreatment or the situation and feels dependent on the abuser.
Does the syndrome occur in Nigeria?
As at 2023, kidnapping and abduction of various forms have increased astronomically, all over the country. This spans all the regions in Nigeria. There is no part of the country that is safe including the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja.
The southern regions are seen as the head quarters of abduction, while north are seen as the head quarters for bandits and terrorists.
Some of these victims are school girls who have spent years with their abductors and have children for them. After being rescued, these teenage girls would prefer to return to their abductors.
And In October 2021some of the kidnapped Chibock girls were released, but they refused the release.
This is because they have started loving the abuse perpetrator.
There are no age barriers involved and most are done for ransom so as to fund their organizations.
A lot of Newspaper media, such as the Pulse Premium Times, The Punch, have reported at different times about people’s opinion concerning Nigerians suffering from Stockholm syndrome when it comes to politics.
What are the side effects or complications of Stockholm syndrome?
The preexisting physical medical conditions get worse due to lack of treatment and deprivation from the maltreatment. And new physical medical conditions can come up, such as hypertension and stroke. There could be anemia as well as malnutrition. There are sexual abuse issues which are rampant in hostage cases.
And death can come from any of these.
Psychological and social:
There is low self esteem and low self worth. Other psychological conditions can also be seen such as depression, anxiety, acute stress disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. The person will have poor sleep and other sleep related issues.
There will be problems in trusting others and relationship issues. Anger and aggression could be a problem and the person could go into crime or become a future abuser.
Abuse of substances such as cannabis, alcohol, etc. can develop as a coping mechanism. And there could also be death by suicide.
Stockholm syndrome treatment.
The syndrome usually involves the combination of psychiatric and psychological counseling. In the treatment, talk therapy and medications are used depending on the severity.
In mild cases, talk therapy or psychological treatment is usually enough. The talk will help the victim understand the experience and know that the sympathetic behaviour was just a survival tactics. The victim will also be taught how to move forward in life.
But when psychiatric conditions have set in, then medications from a psychiatrist are needed. Also a physician can be called in if there are physical complications.
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