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  • 22 May 2014, 11:15

LA Kidnap: A Case Of Stockholm Syndrome?

Authorities are expected to explore whether a woman who was kidnapped as a teenager and held for 10 years may have experienced Stockholm syndrome, which sees hostages sympathise with their abductors.

The victim, who remained unidentified, was initially locked up but was eventually allowed to lead what appeared from the outside to be a normal life, police said.

Investigators in Santa Ana, a suburb of Los Angeles, said she did try to escape her captor, Isidro Garcia, at least twice, but was severely beaten.

She appeared to have passed up other opportunities to escape, investigators said.

According to authorities, the victim was new to the country, did not speak English and saw no way out of her situation as she lived under sustained physical and mental abuse.

She is believed to have been sexually abused and bore a child to her captor in 2012, five years after she was forced to marry him.

In other recent cases, such as the kidnapping of three women in Ohio, the victims were chained or tied up for most of the time.

It was still unclear if this was also the case with Garcia as no full details haveemerged and police were investigating the circumstances of the abduction.

But neighbours said the couple seemed normal, hosting parties and going to church in Bell Gardens, a Los Angeles suburb where they lived for four years.

Garcia, who was known in the neighbourhood as Tomas Medrano, even bought a new car for the victim, who was known to neighbours as Laura Ortiz.

"I'm astounded she waited so long to say something," said Rita Salazar, who lived across the street from the couple and said she never saw any signs of trouble.

Neighbour Javier Campos said he did not believe the allegations.

Stockholm syndrome was identified in 1973 and named after a hostage situation in a bank in the Swedish capital.

During the course of the six-day ordeal, bank employees who were taken hostage came to sympathise with the abductors and defended them.

Perhaps the most famous example of Stockholm syndrome came a year later, when American heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army but joined the group later.

She was caught wielding a gun during a bank robbery and was later convicted for it.

Dr Frank Ochberg, a prominent psychiatrist who helped define Stockholm syndrome, said people in kidnapping situations become "infantilised, dominated".

"They end up being attached to the person who dominates them, much like a child," DrOchberg told the AP news agency.

Small gifts, or token of kindness from a captor, such as a bit of food or a trip to the bathroom, can create positive feelings within the victim.

"Someone takes away the fear, the isolation, and we have positive feelings," he said.

"That could be the beginning of a trauma bond."

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