It happened quite famously to Patty Hearst when she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Stockholm Syndrome occurs whenever a person is in the presence of, and cannot escape, a person who is temporarily more powerful than he or she is, and is threatening in some way. This can happen from kidnapping and rape, and also from plain old ordinary abusive relationships.

The captive is forced to concentrate on the actions of the captor, and they begin to find ways to appease the abuser as a way of avoiding further abuse. Through a form of cognitive dissonance, they begin to focus on good things about the aggressor, and slowly begin to identify with them. Later, when/if the victim has survived the trauma, they still may identify with their former tormentors.

It's a bad idea to reintroduce a sufferer of Stockholm Syndrome and their former abuser, as the victim may regress to trying to gain the approval of the abuser once more. The best way to treat Stockholm Syndrome is to try and bring out the repressed anger the victim still feels towards the captor. Not only will this be theraputic, but it will also help the sufferer avoid more such encounters in the future.

Stockholm syndrome: the name for the bond of attraction that sometimes develops between abuser and abused, molester and molested, captor and captive, and in particular between terrorist and hostage. The term stems from the recent case of a woman held hostage at a bank in Stockholm, Sweden, who became so pairbondedly attached to one of the robbers that she broke her engagement to her prehostage lover and remained faithful to her captor during his prison term.

Dictionary of Sexology Project: Main Index

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