Returning to 'normalcy' after captivity - KMSP-TV

Returning to 'normalcy' after captivity

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Three young women were found alive ten years after they were held captive in Cleveland. Investigators say the young women suffered prolonged sexual and psychological abuse throughout their capture, so how does a person adjust and regain some semblance of a normal life?

FOX 9 spoke with forensic psychologist, Gary R. Schoener. Gary is also the executive director of "walk-in counseling center" in Minneapolis.

Randy Meier: Gary, I've just described a sliver of what these young women endured since they were teenagers.  Can they ever feel "normal" again?

Gary R. Schoener: "Randy there's a lot of individual variability but the fact is some people recover from this remarkably well but it's highly variable. Some of course are plagued for years with memories and things that take them back to that time but there are others that do surprisingly well. Elizabeth Smart for example a highly publicized case that was very similar appears to be doing fairly well so tremendous variability.

Randy Meier: "But the difference is Gary, if my memory serves me right, Elizabeth Smart was only in captivity for nine months. We're talking about a decade their entire teenage years into young adulthood, young women. Does that change the game in a situation like this? "

Gary R. Schoener: "It certainly does and there's certainly some terrific challenges and I don't want to suggest in any way that these young women don't have a lot ahead of them that's going to be difficult they are big individual variability in this and some kids rebound amazingly well."

Randy Meier: Gary, police say there's evidence the three women were restrained with ropes and chains, beaten and sexually assaulted. They hadn't been outside but once in ten years and it started when they were children. What happens to the human mind when subjected to that kind of existence?

Gary R. Schoener:  "Well again it varies a good deal and we have experience with the Walk-In Counseling Center who were in cults and held captive in a very real sense for years some of whom rebound very well and some of whom don't. So it's everything from inability to ever get passed it to some intrusive thoughts and problems for a few years to remarkable rebound. And we don't understand fully what makes the difference."

Randy Meier: One of the women -- Amanda Berry -- freed herself from the home with the help of a neighbor and called 9-1-1.  She had a chance and took it but why in many cases like this don't victims try to escape when opportunities present themselves?

Gary R. Schoener:  "It's hard to explain it but basically they feel trapped and the only thing I can suggest to your listeners think about is a situation where they're driving a car and suddenly they're on ice and they have absolutely no control and suddenly they feel helpless. For some people in captivity they feel that all the time and as such you don't need the chains."

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