“Stockholm syndrome is a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity. These feelings, resulting from a bond formed between captor and captives during intimate time spent together, are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims. Generally speaking, Stockholm syndrome consists of “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.” The FBI’s Hostage Barricade Database System shows that roughly eight percent of victims show evidence of Stockholm syndrome.
It was formally named in 1973 when four hostages were taken during a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. The hostages defended their captors after being released and would not agree to testify in court against them. Stockholm syndrome is ostensibly paradoxical because the sympathetic sentiments captives feel towards their captors are the opposite of the fear and disdain an onlooker may feel towards the captors.
There are four key components that generally lead to the development of Stockholm syndrome:
- A hostage’s development of positive feelings towards their captor
- No previous hostage-captor relationship
- A refusal by hostages to co-operate with police forces and other government authorities
- A hostage’s belief in the humanity of their captor, for the reason that when a victim holds the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be perceived as a threat.
Stockholm syndrome is considered a “contested illness”, due to many law enforcement officers’ doubt about the legitimacy of the condition.
Stockholm syndrome has also come to describe the reactions of some abuse victims beyond the context of kidnappings or hostage-taking. Actions and attitudes similar to those suffering from Stockholm Syndrome have also been found in victims of sexual abuse, human trafficking, discrimination, terror, and political oppression.”