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Hostages

For use with Talking Point worksheets

Moderator: TalkingPoint

Hostages

Postby TalkingPoint » Sun Nov 07, 2004 11:29 am

Hostages

Instructions: Read the text below to find the answers to the questions on your worksheet.

One of the most famous hostages ever held captive was Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of the highly successful newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst. On February 4th 1974 the wealthy nineteen-year-old heiress was abducted at gunpoint from her flat in Berkeley, USA by two men and a woman who claimed to be part of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a small revolutionary group.

Less than 3 months later there was a bank robbery in San Francisco in which $10,000 dollars was stolen at gunpoint. Security videos later revealed that one of the gun-toting robbers was none other than the missing heiress, Patty Hearst!

The leader of the SLA, a man called Donald DeFreeze, was killed less than a month later in a shoot-out with police (May 1974). However, despite this, Patty failed to contact her own parents or return to her previous life. In fact she continued to work with the SLA on what seemed to be a voluntary basis, taking an active part in the criminal activities of the gang until her arrest in September 1975.

So what had turned Patty from a law-abiding, clean-living, family-loving, well-off university student into one of America's most dangerous, most wanted terrorists?

The defense offered at her trial was that of "brainwashing" but it was difficult to prove. Patty was found guilty in March 1976 and sentenced to 25 years in prison (a term which was considerably reduced on appeal).

Interestingly, there was a similar occurence in Stockholm, Sweden in 1973. In August of that year four bank employees were taken hostage in an armed robbery. Despite being held for less than a week they too began to collaborate with their captors, defending them against the police and apparently refusing to testify against them during the subsequent trial. One of the women hostages even went so far as to marry one of the hostage-takers some time later!

The Stockholm Syndrome (as it came to be known) is now widely recognised as a survival mechanism occurring when victims of extreme trauma bond emotionally with those who caused the trauma in the first place. Strategies employed by the hostage-taker/abuser to terrify, isolate, punish and reward the victim result very quickly in the victim perceiving that the hostage-taker/abuser has total control over him/her. Obviously, if the victim behaves obediently (and thinks obediently) his/her chances of good treatment and even survival are increased.

So, was the "brainwashing" Patty Hearst claimed to have suffered at the hands of her captors really a form of the Stockholm Syndrome or did Patty simply take the opportunity to rebel against her upbringing? Perhaps we will never know...

Quick Quiz
Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.
    1. On February 4th 1974 the wealthy __________-year-old heiress was abducted at gunpoint.
    2. The Stockholm Syndrome (as it came to be __________ ) is now widely recognised as a survival mechanism.
    3. Strategies employed by the hostage-taker/abuser to terrify, __________, punish and reward the victim result very quickly in the victim perceiving that the hostage-taker/abuser has total control over him/her.
    4. The leader of the SLA, a man called Donald __________, was killed less than a month later in a shoot-out with police (May 1974).
    5. The bank robbery in Stockholm occurred in the month of __________.
    6. Patty's defence of "Brainwashing" didn't convince the jury at her trial because it was difficult to __________.
Talking Point Homework, EnglishClub.com © Liz Regan 2004
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