Kidnapping is rampant in many parts of the world -- in fact
it is a thriving business in many countries. The U.S. Government provides tips on what you should do when things go bad.
The following is excerpted from DEPARTMENT OF STATE PUBLICATION 10217: Security Awareness Overseas, An Overview [Bureau of
Diplomatic Security - United States Department of State Overseas Security Advisory Council].
Kidnapping is a terrifying experience, but you possess more personal resources than you may be aware of to cope with the
situation. Remember, you are only of value to them alive, and they want to keep you that way.
The common hostage responses of fear, denial, and withdrawal are all experienced in varying degrees. You may be
blindfolded, drugged, handled roughly, or even stuffed in the trunk of a car. If drugs are administered, do not resist.
Their purpose will be to sedate you and make you more manageable; these same drugs may actually help you to get control of
emotions, which should be your immediate goal. If conscious, follow your captors' instructions.
A hostage-taking situation is at its worst at the onset. The terrorists are nervous and unsure, easily irritated, often
irrational. It is a psychologically traumatic moment for the hostage. Violence may be used even if the hostage remains
passive, but resistance could result in death.
If taken hostage, your best defense is passive cooperation. You may be terrified, but try to regain your composure
as soon as possible and to organize your thoughts. Being able to behave rationally increases your chances for survival. The
more time that passes, the better your chances of being released alive.
Each captivity is different, but some behavior suggestions apply to most:
Try to establish some kind of rapport with your captors. Family is a universal subject. Avoid political dialogues, but
listen attentively to their point of view. If you know their language, listen and observe; and if addressed, use it.
Plan on a lengthy stay, and determine to keep track of the passage of time. Captors may attempt to confuse your sense
of time by taking your watch, keeping you in a windowless cell, or serving meals at odd hours. However, you can approximate
time by noting, for example, changes in temperatures between night and day; the frequency and intensity of outside
noises�traffic, whistles, birds; and by observing the alertness of guards.
Maintain your dignity and self-respect at all times.
Manage your time by setting up schedules for simple tasks, exercises, daydreaming, housekeeping.
Build relations with fellow captives and with the terrorists. If hostages are held apart, devise ways to communicate
with one another. Where hostages are moved back and forth, to bathrooms for example, messages can be written and left.
However, do not jeopardize your safety or the safety or treatment of others if attempting to communicate with fellow
captives seems too risky.
Maintain your physical and mental health; it is critical to exercise body and mind. Eat food provided without
complaint; keep up your strength. Request medical treatment or special medicines if required.
Establish exercise and relaxation programs. Exercise produces a healthy tiredness and gives you a sense of
accomplishment. If space is confined, do isometrics. Relaxation reduces stress. Techniques include meditation, prayer,
daydreaming. � Keep your mind active; read anything available. Write, even if you are not allowed to retain your writings.
If materials are not available, mentally compose poetry or fiction, try to recall
Scripture, design a house, even "play tennis" (as one hostage did).
Take note of the characteristics of your captors and surroundings: their habits, speech, contacts; exterior noises
(typical of city or country); and other distinctive sounds. This information could prove very valuable later.
If selected for early release, consider it an opportunity to help remaining hostages. Details you have observed on the
terrorists and the general situation can assist authorities with a rescue.
You can expect to be accused of working for the government's intelligence service, to be interrogated extensively, and to
lose weight. You may be put in isolation; your captives may try to disorient you. It is important that you mentally
Avoidance of Capture or Escape
Efforts to avoid capture or to attempt escape have in most cases been futile. The decision, however, is a personal one,
although it could affect fellow hostages by placing them in jeopardy. Several other considerations should be weighed.
To have any chance of success, you should be in excellent physical condition and mentally prepared to react before the
terrorists have consolidated their position. This, also, is the riskiest psychological time. You would need to have a plan
in mind, and possibly have been trained in special driving tactics or other survival skills.
If you are held in a country in which you would stand out because of race or other physical characteristics, if you know
nothing of the language or your location, or if you are held in a country where anti-American or anti-Western attitudes
prevail, you should consider the consequences of your escape before attempting it. If you conclude that an escape attempt
is worthwhile, take terrorists by surprise and you may make it. If their organization has a poor track record of hostage
safety, it may be worth the risk.
The termination of any terrorist incident is extremely tense. If an assault force attempts a rescue, it is imperative that
you remain calm and out of the way. Make no sudden moves or take any action by which you could be mistaken for a terrorist
and risk being injured or killed.
Even in a voluntary release or surrender by the terrorists, tensions are charged and tempers volatile. Very precise
instructions will be given to the hostages, either by the captors or the police. Follow instructions precisely. You may be
asked to exit with hands in the air, and you may be searched by the rescue team. You may experience rough treatment until
you are identified and the situation has stabilized.
Finally, it's worth keeping in mind three facts about terrorism:
The overwhelming majority of victims have been abducted from their vehicles on the way to or from work.
A large number of people taken hostage ignored the most basic security precautions.
Terrorist tactics are not static. As precautions prove effective, they change their methods. There is a brief "window
of vulnerability" while we learn to counter their new styles.
Do not settle into a routine. Vary times and routes to and from work or social engagements.
Remember, there is safety in numbers. Avoid going out alone. When traveling long distances by automobile, go in a convoy.
Avoid back country roads and dangerous areas of the city.
A privately owned car generally offers the best security. Avoid luxury or ostentatious cars. Keep your automobile in good
repair and the gas tank at least half full. Driving in the center lane of a multiple lane highway makes it difficult for
the car to be forced off the road.