What to expect when you are released

Reintegration can be tough at times. Many former hostages say they drew on the strength and focus they had whilst in captivity to help them overcome the challenges they faced after they were released. Although it may be really difficult at times –there is a way through. Take each day as it comes and be kind to yourself.

Doctor type keyboard with stethoscope.

Immediate medical needs

You may need to seek immediate emergency medical attention following your release if you have injuries that are serious. These may be injuries you sustained during a rescue attempt or they might be long term conditions triggered by your experiences during captivity.

You could be malnourished; have muscle wastage, if you haven’t been able to exercise; or have picked up a virus or infection – possibly remaining undetected. You may have been sexually abused or physically tortured and you may have experienced long periods of isolation.

If you haven’t been offered a medical examination when you are released, make an appointment with your doctor and ask for a thorough medical check up. Finding the right doctor and making appointments might be challenging given everything else you are having to deal with. Hostage US can assist you in making these arrangements.

There are all sorts of things we do to help us cope with everyday stress and help us to relax, such as going for a run or having a glass of wine. In moderation, these are healthy responses for anyone, but done to excess they can become detrimental. Keep an eye on yourself – you will know if things don’t feel right. Seek help. Hostage US is here for you.

Debrief process

There is usually a debrief or period of ‘decompression’ after you’ve been released, without any family members present, which will be conducted by experts and supported by trauma specialists. The aim of this is to give you a period of readjustment and, depending on the circumstances of your kidnapping, you may also be expected to relive what you’ve been through in order to gather information for the government or law enforcement.

During this time of ‘de-brief’, do what feels right for you. If you wish to have some contact with your family, do not be afraid to ask for it. You don’t have to feel isolated from your family.

You may also feel as if you are still in a form of captivity – you will probably be in a safe house rather than at home, and you might have limited access to your loved ones. You could find yourself having a number of different de-briefs depending upon how many teams were involved in your release. It can be a difficult time because you will be recalling what you have been through.

Some former hostages have also found the process to have a therapeutic effect and recognized that this is the start of their reintegration.
Take it at your own pace – don’t be rushed and don’t be afraid to ask to take a break.

It is important that you gel with the person who is carrying out the de-brief – if you don’t, do not be afraid to ask for them to be changed.

Other former hostages have described this period as being ‘surreal’ and have experienced many emotions, such as wondering if they have actually been released; being overwhelmed by the attention they receive; and guilt if they have had to leave other hostages behind.

You may also experience some or all of the following: sleep disturbance, flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive thoughts about what happened, you may be hyper-vigilant, feel angry, have a heightened sense of emotions, and you may cry more than normal and try to avoid doing things related to what has happened.

These emotions are all normal reactions to what you have been through. It will take time for your mind and body to recover.

Contact with government officials

In the days, weeks and even months following your release, you may be required to communicate with various different government agencies about your experiences. Some will be keen to gather information that could help catch those responsible for your kidnapping. Others will want to gather intelligence from you to help with other ongoing investigations or operations. Take this at your own pace and don’t be afraid to ask for breaks, assign the meeting place or ask to change your point of contact.

How Hostage US can help

Returning from captivity can be a lonely experience and the process of reintegrating can be difficult. You are not alone – Hostage US is here to help you and your family with support, guidance and information.

Hostage US can offer a range of types of support, all of which are delivered confidentially and free of charge. We are all different, so the support will be tailored to what you tell us you need.

We can help you to manage practical challenges, such as accessing your financial affairs, changing passwords on accounts, redirecting mail, or updating records.

We can help you to find expert medical practitioners in your local area.

We can help you to find trauma counselors close to home with the right qualifications and experience.

We can offer guidance on some of the things that can make it really difficult to function from day to day – sleeping problems, difficulty gaining weight and dealing with the impacts of malnutrition, or making a steady and phased return to exercise.

We can get you access to pro bono lawyers.

Whatever your needs, get in touch with Hostage US and we will do our best to help.

Download the Reintegration Guide.