Of Human Bondage.

This was written in 2000 about an incident that occurred in the late 80s

The “Stockholm Syndrome” denotes the bond that develops between captive and captor. It was named after a bank raid in Stockholm in 1973. In spite of considerable abuses one of the captives actually became engaged to one of the captors, another raised a “defence fund” for the Bank Robbers. All four captives refused to testify.

I have personal experience of this.

In 1988 I was returning to my car parked in a safe, upmarket, residential street.

I noticed a man walking on the opposite side of the road; this didn’t even unnerve me. I have a habit of driving barefoot (and why not?). I was removing my shoes with door open (it was a small car and I’m a tall lady), when someone crouched down at the open door.

On first glance I thought he was an acquaintance who might well be in that area.

“Move over and give me the keys”

My heart stopped.

I just started stalling every way I could. My car was essential, worth nothing whatsoever, only insured for 3rd party, and absolutely irreplaceable.

First he asked me where he could drop me off because he only needed the car, I stalled, then remembered a Police Officer who’s home address I knew, but for some reason he changed his mind.

I think I was a little relieved. For some perverse reason all that counted was not letting that car out of my sight. I tried to explain to him how vital the car was, but he had an answer for everything.

Finally he pulled into a dark laneway I’d never seen before.

I think what went through my head at that point was “Goodbye Cruel World”. I was that calm. Really numb. I kept talking, trying to make conversation. I lived in a totally different part of the country, but insanely enough he actually knew my landlord and his three sons very well. So I kept on making small talk. Trying to become as real and human as possible to him. Mostly instinct.

I was trying to draw him out, he had already figured out that I would go straight to the Police.

I began to learn things.

He was a soldier, suffering PTSD (under the circumstances I felt there was no need to go for a formal diagnosis). He came back from his last tour of active duty to find his wife not only had a lover but had also cleaned out the joint bank account.

He had been following them, night after night, watching them.

He wanted the car to ram them, and kill all three of them.

My impression was that he was no criminal, he was just a regular guy about to go over the edge. That he was trying to gain sufficient momentum to take three lives including his own. The first step was to commit an act that would ensure there was no turning back, whether he fully realised it or not I was to BE that first step.

My mind was firing like a supercomputer on overdrive. I knew I was fighting for my life. It was a really strange feeling, as though I couldn’t put a foot wrong, everything I should do just came into my head.

For some reason his mind turned to having one last sexual encounter at some point.

Bluntly, rape.

He was a big man, very fit, I hadn’t got a chance, and I knew if I fought the fragile moral line inside him, that was still holding him in check so far, would be crossed into violence. As soon as that happened I was dead. I just knew it with uncanny certainty.

So I didn’t fight. He ordered me out of the car, and over the bonnet, I complied.

He couldn’t get an erection.

There don’t seem to be any statistics on surviving rape attempts that turn into impotence, but blind instinct told me very few live to tell the tale.

I could see him changing, it was terrifying. I knew there was no point in pleading for my life, if I did, his, hitherto unconscious, intent to take it would become real to him, which would be the last of his inhibitions stripped away on a riptide of cognitive dissonance and adrenaline.

Again instinct took over like lightening.

I did the last thing he could possibly have expected, threw my arms around his neck and sobbed hysterically pleading with him not to take his own life. I was performing like a 3rd rate actress in a Hollywood B movie, but the tears were real.

He sat back in the car and poured out his life to me.

There are very few inhibitions left in someone who has come so close to raping and killing you. All the barriers come completely down.

Then, in the fastest episode of transference in history he decided none of it mattered any more, because I was his one true love. I didn’t think it was the right moment to suggest any contradictions, I admit I went on playing it for all I was worth.

He drove me around, outlining our future together, took me to see the park at dawn, his favourite place as a child, I left him off at his barracks. He was desperately insecure that I wouldn’t meet him later. He took something small and insignificant of mine so I’d have to meet him to get it back.

After I left him I felt more empowered than I ever had in my life, that effect lasted for days. My mind had saved my life. What could be more empowering than that?

I couldn’t go to the Police, I knew him too well by then. I certainly didn’t think he was the great love of my life, but I was sure he was basically a decent human being, in terrible crisis that had passed now, and would never be a threat to society again. I even went to meet him, out of concern, to try and persuade him to seek help. For some strange reason he stood me up.

I did feel to be in a terrible dilemma. I didn’t want retribution, but supposing I was wrong? Supposing he wasn’t harmless? I watched the papers for a couple of months expecting to see a body had been found, but I saw nothing.

It all faded from memory, strangely, leaving no lingering trauma.

Until two or three years later.

He went to a lot of trouble to find me again. To apologise, to find out how I was, as though he were a relative.

He told me he had sought help that day, and had spent 18 months in hospital.

I was right, he was a really nice guy.

He also told me that he remembered me as so cool about it all he was wondering whether he’d actually done anything unusual yet! Because I was acting as if I got hijacked every day.

No I never fell in love with him. But I do remember when I saw him that last time, I felt utterly safe with him, as though I’d known him all my life.

I often asked myself why that should be.

I think the answer is simple.

I had seen him at the absolute worst there was for him to be, and survived. There was nothing unknown left to fear.

Perhaps that IS a big factor in the “Stockholm Syndrome”?

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