On March 9, 2007, the hunt was on. Former special agent Robert Levinson was kidnapped. The ex-FBI agent, who had a hand in taking down members of the Mafia in New York and Miami, was working as a private detective. Levinson was reportedly investigating a cigarette-smuggling scheme that led him to the Kish Islands in Iran. It was there that he was taken by unknown kidnappers to an undisclosed location. For four years there have been few leads and few suspects.
In a statement released March 3, 2011, by the State Department, Secretary Hilary Clinton asked Iran for help in searching for Levinson and demanded his safe return to the United States.
As the Government of Iran has previously offered its assistance in this matter, we respectfully request the Iranian government to undertake humanitarian efforts to safely return and reunite Bob with his family, read the statement.
Then early this December a video of Levinson was released as proof of life. In the video, he pleaded for help from the United States.
What could be going through the mind of Robert Levinson? How do kidnapping victims, in any situation, cope with such a terrible and stressful ordeal?
Dealing with the Kidnapping
Someone's reaction really depends on the circumstances, what happened, how it happened, and how it proceeded from start to finish, Dr. Carl Shubs told International Business Times' Crimes of New York. Shubs is a trauma certified psychologist, who helps victims cope with the events they experienced.
There are several factors to analyzing the psyche of a kidnapping victim, starting with how and where the event occurred. Shubs says there are definite differences in being taken in your home town or city and a foreign country. If an individual is visiting a politically sensitive nation, like Levinson, he or she may almost be prepared for something like that to happen.
Someone in that situation would be fully aware of the danger they are putting themselves in, says Shubs. If you stand out as an American, just by doing that, you are putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.
Shubs added that how an individual is treated and the motives also become determining factors of the extent of the trauma of the kidnapping.
It also makes a huge difference how they are treated, whether they are treated poorly or not, says Shubs. However, if they are kidnapped and held hostage by a hostile government or extremist terrorist group and they are severely tortured, it will obviously be extremely difficult for a person emotionally and physically. Currently, officials are unaware if Levinson was tortured. However, Levinson said he is declining medical health.
I have been held here for three-and-a-half years. I am not in very good health. I am running very quickly out of diabetes medicine, says Levinson in the video. There are some lingering fears that he will not be able to return back to the United States.
Recently, a 38-year-old woman was abducted in Great Neck, Long Island from a bus stop. She was waiting at a bus stop when Sirus Kashimallak pulled up next to her.
He approached the victim he showed her a handgun. He ordered her into his car, said Nassau County police Sgt. Stephen Zeth, according to CBS. Throughout the ordeal, Kashimallak kept attempting to force the woman to engage in sexual contact. She was released by Kashimallak about 15 minutes later and reported no injuries. Eventually, Kashimallak was found and arrested, but the affects of his crimes may not pass so quickly for the woman.
Situations like these, according to Shubs, could have profound lingering effects. The woman probably felt safe and secure in her home town, as opposed to Levinson who knew he was entering a potentially hostile situation. Most people live a generally safe life in a generally safe area that has no reasonable expectation that anything bad could happen that day, says Shubs. This woman could now feel unhinged in her own town because that presumed safety was a falsehood, continued Shubs.
Lingering Affects on Victims
Shubs also noted that kidnapping is only the event, while the trauma that occurs is the internal processing of the external event. That means, in Shub's view, the trauma occurs after the event takes place and the victim replays the tragedy in his or her head. Each person will handle the episode differently, says Shubs. Depending on the psychological make-up of the person, each individual will have different emotions and ways of handling a kidnapping.
One of the varying kidnapping factors, he notes, talking about an individual's recovery, is that it, depends on who they were before they were kidnapped.
For example, he asks, Are they someone who felt weak, someone with low self-esteem, strong and be powerful and independent? Someone who sees themselves as strong and powerful? Such self-esteem, he warns, might be turned around in his [or her] mind. Every person may view similar kidnapping situations differently, says Shubs. In varying situations, people may have symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Shubs suggests this is a very common feeling. These are normal reactions after that kind of incident. It feels very unusual, he says. Some people are afraid they are going crazy It is a typical response people have after being subject to a violent or physically damaging situation, such as a kidnapping.
Shubs notes that at the beginning of a kidnapping, people are often in crisis mode. They may remain in this state for weeks after the event. In order to deal with this, Shubs suggests therapy. He says that individuals coping with kidnapping, no matter how long of a period of time they were taken, should receive some sort of therapy for their trauma.
It helps to talk to a professional. Help is out there.