Why our work matters
Impact on families
Having a loved one kidnapped is a frightening and lonely experience. While attention rightly focuses on the plight of the hostage, their families are victims, too.
They face months – sometimes years – not knowing whether their loved one is alive or dead.
They are often helpless to do anything to bring about their release when demands are political or financially outside their means.
They struggle to get access to information about the case as this comes via the government or the hostage’s employer.
They face practical challenges, such as changed financial circumstances when the hostage is the main breadwinner especially if their employer cannot continue to pay their salary, or difficulty accessing bank accounts or insurance policies in the hostage’s name.
Most are advised to keep events secret from even close family and friends, which places a tremendous burden on them. And they suffer the myriad effects of prolonged trauma and acute anxiety but struggle to get access to appropriate psychiatric support and counselling.
Impact on hostages
Getting the hostage home is what everyone has worked so hard to achieve. The family and the returning hostage are understandably ecstatic to be reunited.
Coming home can be the start of a new period of challenge and change for both the hostage and their family and friends.
The hostage is likely to suffer physically as a result of their captivity. They may have severe malnutrition. They may have extreme muscle wastage after months or years of limited movement. They may have picked up a virus or disease that has gone untreated in the absence of medical assistance. They may have dental problems if they have not been able to brush their teeth.
They might also be impacted psychologically. Perhaps they have been held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods. Perhaps they have been tortured or psychologically abused. They may be coming to terms with their experiences, their loss of control, their mortality.
They might also be suffering the very severe impacts of prolonged loss of sleep, such as difficulty focusing and retaining information, depression or mood swings, and continued poor sleep patterns.
Some may go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.
How Hostage US helps
Hostage US provides support, care and professional services to families to help get them through what is a frightening and lonely experience. No family should have to go through this alone.
We provide each family with a member of our team as their go to person. They become their navigator, helping them to make sense of what is happening and what they are told.
They can answer questions about how the government works, why they are being asked for a DNA sample in the early days of a kidnapping, how to organize their information and notes, and give them tips about how to cope with everything from managing the case to dealing with the impacts of sleep deprivation and anxiety.
Hostage US is by their side every step of the way, and for as long as it takes.
“Hostage US helped during Luke’s kidnap, around the time of his death, and now over a year later. As soon as we got in touch with you, you were so helpful to us. You continue to help us. We know we can call on you for advice. I feel I can ask you anything about the case and you will be there for me and my family. The personal contact is huge.” Paula Somers, mother of Luke Somers who was kidnapped in Yemen and killed during a failed rescue attempt in December 2014.
Hostage US also help families to access professional services.
When a hostage’s salary is not paid during their kidnapping, their family struggles to make ends meet. We are able to get them access to financial advisors to assess their financial options, help them to make decisions and offer a strategy for coping during and after the kidnapping to keep them on their feet financially.
If the partner of a hostage is struggling to access bank accounts, investments or other assets in their joint name they might need a lawyer to advise or help them to secure a Power of Attorney. We are able to offer them a lawyer to assist, providing the necessary professional skills and removing the stress and anxiety that such matters can create.
When a hostage returns home they may need medical treatments, a psychological assessment, and ongoing care and treatment. We are able to ensure hostages get the specialist health care they need.
Hostage US support is delivered entirely free of charge. We are independent of outside interests. And we are a confidential service.
“For me and my family and Jim’s family and all of our close friends, I can’t think of anybody that would not have benefited from the support of Hostage US.”
-Don Cipriani, friend of Jim Foley, kidnapped and killed in Syria in August 2014.
“We were given new hope being able to contact Hostage US. The fact that you came to us in Washington State meant so much to us. Also the fact that you were available around the clock. We were given names of other hostage families—it was very good corresponding with family members who had gone through the same situation. Hostage US gave me the opportunity to connect with others in that way. In whatever way you could help, you did it.”
– Paula Somers, mother of Luke Somers, kidnapped in Yemen and killed in a failed rescue attempt in December 2014.