INITIAL CONSIDERATIONS after a hostage taking or wrongful detention

Nothing can prepare you for the news that a loved one has been kidnapped or wrongfully detained abroad. You might

  • Feel scared, confused or disorientated;
  • Find it hard to believe that it has actually happened; or
  • Worry about your loved one’s safety and what you can do to help get them home safely.

You can get through this.

Most hostages come home safely, and families just like yours have survived the experience and gone on to live happy lives after it is over. You are not alone. Hostage US is here to offer support, information and guidance.

Learn more about the initial considerations from Kristen Mulvihill, wife of a former hostage.

What to expect

Every kidnapping is different and it is difficult to predict exactly what to expect. How the kidnapping will play out will depend on a range of factors, such as:

  • The group holding your loved one,
  • Where they are being held,
  • What is happening in that place at the time,
  • The identity of the hostage, and
  • What the group who is holding your loved one wants.

You are likely to be in contact with the US government, and perhaps a private security company, or advisors on different topics such as media.

Hostage US can help you to make sense of things in these early days – and for as long as you need throughout the ordeal.


When you are going through a situation as stressful, confusing and scary as having a loved one kidnapped, it can be difficult to make sense of the information you receive and keep track of all the people you are meeting and talking to.

One of the most helpful things you can do is stay organized – doing this from day one will help you feel on top of what’s happening and reduce your stress levels. Even if the kidnapping is resolved in a few weeks, it is important to be organized.


You are likely to deal with a number of different government agencies, such as the FBI and the State Department. You might also be in touch with your loved one’s employer and any other organizations they have helping them, such as private security companies.

Ask each of these entities to prepare a list of names, photos, job roles and contact information to help you remember and keep track of who you are dealing with.

It is also best to put in writing any requests you make so you have a record of your communications.


Buy a notebook or create a file on your computer to keep notes well organized – it will be invaluable to be able to refer back to them. Your notes might cover things, such as:

  • Notes from meetings with government, employer or other organizations
  • Notes from phone calls
  • Notes on reading and research you have done on the place your loved one is being held or the group holding them, for example
  • Questions you have – make a note of them as you think about them as you might not remember them later
  • List of websites, twitter accounts, experts you have found useful and want to refer to again

Note taking and record keeping will help keep you on track with what needs to be done and who is taking on what role to help get your loved one home.