It might seem impossible to deal with the impact of knowing your loved one is kidnapped, but there are things you can do to help yourself. The following guidance will help you to organise practical affairs.
Managing the kidnapping
One of your key roles is to keep track of developments and stay in contact with those managing the kidnap response.
Liaising with those involved in the kidnap response
The organisations involved in the kidnap response depends on the nature of the kidnap and who has been taken. They can include the hostage’s government and foreign affairs departments, law enforcement personnel, family liaison officers and specialist agencies like counter-terrorism officers. The hostage’s employer and their agencies may also be involved.
You can ask your point of contacts in each organisation to make a list of people, their specific roles in the case and their contact details for your reference. You should consider advice given to you by all these parties.
In order to make the most of your meetings with them and to help you keep a record of all communication, prepare your questions in advance of the meeting and write down all the answers so you can think them through afterwards. Don’t assume you should be entirely in the dark about the kidnap response; you can ask for clarity on your country’s position towards particular kidnapping groups, you can ask what is being done to bring your loved one home or why the authorities cannot pursue a particular avenue of resolution. There might be some information that cannot be shared with you or some days there might be no news, but you can ask why so you understand the complexity.
You might be approached by unknown individuals claiming they have information about your loved one or proposing to act as an intermediary between you and the kidnappers. Many have their own self-serving interests in being involved in the case, so be careful about their approach and offers. Report these contacts to the authorities or others who are assisting you with the kidnapping.
You are likely to receive a lot of information on developments from those handling the kidnapping and this can be overwhelming. It is sensible to start a notebook on day one and keep all information, papers, websites and resources together in one place. Make sure you date your meeting notes and record who they are with. It will then be much easier to sort and look over the information at a later date. Take notes in your meetings and calls with the government, employers, private response companies and others.
Sources of information about the country and the kidnapping group
Some families wish to learn more about where their loved one is being held, the group suspected of holding them and the wider political and criminal factors at play. You might have questions about why this has happened, why your loved one was targeted and for what purpose. This is understandable. The government or your hostage’s employers can help you to access information or experts on the group or region.
What can you do to help the response to the kidnap?
Many family members feel helpless in the wake of a kidnap incident and some want to play a role in bringing their loved one home. First and foremost, look after yourself and your family – you need to be strong to withstand the kidnapping and to support the hostage when they return home. In some cases, family members will be asked to be involved in the kidnap response. Follow the advice of the authorities or consultants involving you. While you should stay within the parameters they set, you can ask about the roles of others so you have the full picture and ask questions if you feel uncertain about a particular strategy.
Some family members feel the need to travel to where their loved one was kidnapped in the hope of finding new leads or information about their loved one. Do not put yourself in danger and consider if this will mean that efforts and personnel will be shifted away from the kidnap response. It is unlikely that you can add value by being closer to the location of the incident, but you could increase risks to yourself and others.
Finances and household management
You may experience financial problems as a result of the kidnapping. There might be additional costs for you, your ability to work might be impacted, you may stop receiving the hostage’s income, and you might also need to cover additional costs. You may also experience problems when trying to access joint bank accounts, insurance policies or in dealing with government agencies, such as tax departments.
Given the sensitive nature of kidnapping and the fact that financial services are not geared up to deal with the uncommon crime of kidnapping, you may find it is not appropriate to walk into your local branch or call the customer services helpline and state your predicament. You may need to agree with those managing the kidnap response the information that can and cannot be shared with third-party organisations. You might also need to have evidence that this crime has taken place and that the hostage is unable to give permission. Ask the authorities if they can provide a generic letter about the incident that can be used to explain the situation to third party organisations.
Continuing to work
It is not uncommon for work to be more challenging in the wake of a kidnap incident. You may not feel able to work, or find that you are struggling to concentrate or interact with your colleagues. On the other hand, continuing to work is an important way of maintaining a routine and keeping the family financially secure. Consider informing your employer of your situation and seeing if you can agree on flexible arrangements. There might be the option to reorganise your tasks, or work from home to alleviate the strain.