Nothing can prepare you for the news that a loved one has been kidnapped. You will feel many uncomfortable emotions but can get through this. Most hostages return, and families just like yours have survived the experience and gone on to live happy lives after it is over. You are not alone.
Every kidnapping is different, so it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen. How the kidnapping will play out will depend on the group holding your loved one, where they are, the identity of the hostage and what the group wants.
The following sections guide you on the matters to consider, from managing the kidnapping and looking after yourself and your family to preparing for the return and post-kidnap matters. The information is based on our experience of supporting hundreds of families over many years.
Initial considerations include:
- Notification of the kidnap: Where your loved one was kidnapped abroad, you should inform their home government’s consular directorate and their employer.
- Confidentiality: You need to be really careful about who you inform about the kidnap; usually the news is only shared between immediate family members. This is important because if the news falls into the wrong hands, it could alter the path of resolution or the hostage’s safety. Seek guidance about who to inform and what information can be given.
- Managing information: You will be receiving a lot of new information in a short space of time. Some will be factual, but a lot will be speculation. This is on top of the reactions and perspectives from others in the family. Overall, it can be challenging to manage in the first days and weeks. To help you make sense of what is happening and to organise your thoughts, create and maintain a notebook of developments (including speculation) from the start, as well as the names, roles and organisations of those involved in the response. Go through your updates with the people working to resolve the incident.
- Seeking information: Do not be afraid to ask the authorities or the hostage’s employers any questions you may have such as what are they doing to bring your loved one home, who is your point of contact or how do you handle media enquiries?