"Helping people who help people"

As I’m sure everyone has heard, an 11 year old was kidnapped and just discovered at age 29.  The story can be found on CNN and likely anywhere.  I’m chilled, haunted, horrified, and deeply saddened, as the country is.  It is a bonfire for media with coverage likely to continue for many months.

I am  hoping this tragic story helps articulate WHY I’m so passionate about mental health websites!  I grew up with a therapist father and have always been a curious person.  My father has always been able to answer questions I had (answer may be philosophical, psychological, spiritiual, etc), as well as share insights into the world of psychology.  Most people don’t have someone like that in their life, so they rely on friends, television, magazines, radio, and websites.  Often the filter is either journalists and who they decide talk to, what their editors cut down, or it’s just “pop psych” stuff.  It’s a very natural to have intense anger and want the man and his wife in this situation to burn in hell.  But… that kind of dialogue doesn’t HELP ANYONE.  This woman and her daughters tragedy should, in some small way, have a light of hope, insight, new understanding.

My hope is to inspire therapists (and marriage educators) to use their knowledge and insights to FURTHER the dialogue and understanding.  This can be easily done on your website for those who read it.  And while some of you may not have a lot of website traffic, even if someone TOMORROW happens upon your website, sees a really interesting response from you on this current event, it may move them to call you for therapy, sign up for your class…or, gasp, FORWARD your article to their friends and family!  That will not only help others learn psychological insights, but may even get you new clients.  Many experts have something to say on this story: child psychologists, family therapists, trauma experts, parenting experts, social workers, kidnapping experts, therapists who work with famous clients (these women have unwanted fame now), educational psychologists, and I’m sure I’m missing others.

If you’re wondering what you could talk about in this story, here are a ton of questions I have  for the very difficult emotional, physical, and logistical adjustments of this woman and her two daughters (and the family.)  In no particular order, these are ideas that could prompt you for your own blog, or website, or heck, call a local journalist to say you’ve got some new insights to further the local dialogue of this case.  Don’t let your training go to waste if it can help strengthen the cultural dialogue on new understandings.  The best conversations START with a specific case, like this, but expand OUTWARD to generalities.  Wrapping too deep into details of this case doesn’t help the overall potential to learn “as a country”, because the details are unique and not likely to happen the same way ever again.

  • Is it healthy or unhealthy for the victim and her daughters to ever see the man again (the childrens father?)  What extra pain and suffering will they experience if this man is now vanished from their lives? 
  • Is the 29 year old capable of “quick” emotional attachment to her mother or is she likely distant and will take time?
  • How will these girls adjust to the “outside world” labeling the only man they have known, their father, to be an evil person?
  • Can these girls have good emotional attachment with a teenage mother locked away from the world?  If she was raised pretty well herself, would her strong emotional stability from her earliest days help her be a good mother?
  • What is the likely outcome of the intellectual abilities of these girls who were never in school?  Those early years are so crucial.  If their mother was extremely interactive with them, are they likely to not have lost a lot of their “capacity” the way a child locked in a closet for a decade with zero human interaction would be permanently brain damanged?
  • How does the first mother (of the 29 year old victim) manage her own emotions so she doesn’t further harm her daughter and granddaughters, unintentionally, by not understanding the huge trauma and transition they’re about to go through?
  • We have only heard from the stepfather, who seems to be divorced because of the kidnapping stress.  What could the mother of the victim do to regroup psychologically and come to understand he never committed the crime she believed he did?  That must be one of the countless shocks she is going through emotionally.
  • How does the stepfather not take over the spotlight, as a way to share with the world that for 18 years he was never the evil man people thought he was?  How does he handle his own emotions and keep them in check for the more important matters of the 3 victims re-entering the world?
  • What can be going on with the wife of this perpetrator that she is capable of kidnapping a girl and then letting her husband rape and raise children with her?  Was she likely brainwashed in some way or is she likely to be an equal player in this twisted story?
  • How does the defense lawyer in this case handle the intense emotional and societal backlash he or she will experience defending a man like this, nevermind it’s a constitutional right given to all Americans to have a lawyers defense in the court of law.  If this lawyer has family, especially children, how does s/he help them understand this case and why it is important to represent the perpetrator?  And then how does this lawyer explain this in a way that her/his children don’t get attacked at school for having a parent who can defend such an evil person?
  • What are some likely side affects of the re-entry for these three females?  What would their best shot at success be in terms of when and how to re-enter life, where to live, school, jobs?
  • What is likely early experiences of the perpetrator to be capable of doing all this?  Is it likely he was severely abused or could this be a situation of pure mental illness?  And what kind of mental illness can translate into such a long-term situation?  We hear more of “fast-acting” crimes but 18 years is a very long time, not to mention all the moments in those 18 years that might get someone to “snap out of it” and seek outside help.
  • Can a perpetrator like this be trusted at all with his stories?  How much does the truth come out with sincerity and how much is still masked inside the mental illness?
  • For parents whose children are hearing about this story, how do they help explain this to their children?  How do parents discuss kidnapping, but just as important, how does a parent help their children not get overly traumatized by the story?

If you do write something for your website, COMMENT on this blog and send us a link!

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