Kid­napped girl faces long, hard road to re­cov­ery

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION - By Tammy Web­ber and Brady McCombs

CHICAGO — Katie Beers’ joy quickly turned to deep con­cern when she learned 13-year-old Jayme Closs had been found alive in ru­ral Wis­con­sin nearly three months after po­lice say a man shot and killed her par­ents then ab­ducted the girl from their home.

“She is go­ing to have to grieve the loss of her par­ents and also come to terms with the fact she was ab­ducted, es­caped and what­ever (other) hell she went through,” Beers said. “And it’s not go­ing to be easy.”

Beers knows that bet­ter than most.

Sun­day will mark 26 years since a then-10-year-old Beers was res­cued from an un­der­ground con­crete bunker in Bay Shore, N.Y., where she had been held cap­tive for more than two weeks by a fam­ily friend who’d lured her to his home with the prom­ise of birth­day presents.

As Jayme be­gins to process her trauma, ex­perts and for­mer vic­tims say what she needs most is space and time to dis­cuss it on her own terms. And with the help of a sup­port­ive and un­der­stand­ing fam­ily, she prob­a­bly will be able to re­cover and live a happy life.

“One of the things that helped me re­cover so quickly is that no­body forced me to talk about what hap­pened,” said Beers, 36, who is mar­ried and has two chil­dren. “I didn’t even do in­ter­views un­til I was 30. I didn’t have to re­live it ev­ery day.”

Au­thor­i­ties said Jayme was skinny, di­sheveled and wear­ing shoes too big for her when she ap­proached a stranger and pleaded for help Thurs­day in the small town of Gor­don, about 60 miles from her home­town of Bar­ron. Jake Thomas Pat­ter­son, 21, was quickly ar­rested and jailed on kid­nap­ping and homi­cide charges.

It’s un­clear ex­actly what Jayme ex­pe­ri­enced — in­clud­ing whether she was co­erced with threats or phys­i­cally abused — so peo­ple must be care­ful how they in­ter­act with her, said Duane Bow­ers, a trauma ther­a­pist who works with fam­i­lies of miss­ing and ex­ploited chil­dren and adults.

Al­though friends and fam­ily might be ea­ger to know de­tails, the only con­trol the vic­tim has is when, to whom and how she tells her story, Bow­ers said, adding that’s es­pe­cially true of Jayme, who has lost so much.

For most child kid­nap­ping vic­tims, they have the hope that their par­ents will find them, “but in this case she knew her folks were dead and couldn’t find her,” Bow­ers said. So now, “she needs to feel ... in con­trol and ex­pe­ri­ence her mem­o­ries in a way that ... doesn’t re­trig­ger” her trauma.

El­iz­abeth Smart, who was 14 when she was kid­napped at knife­point from her Salt Lake City home in 2002, told the As­so­ci­ated Press that ev­ery­one en­dures dif­fer­ent men­tal and psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma after kid­nap­pings, but Jayme will have to con­front the fact that there “is no go­ing back to the way things were.”

“Prob­a­bly one of the more dif­fi­cult is­sues is go­ing to be find­ing that new sense of nor­malcy in her life,” said Smart, a 31-year-old mother of three. “Not re-cre­at­ing the old but (cre­at­ing) the new and learn­ing to be OK with that.”

Beers and Smart said they are proof that trauma sur­vivors can go on to live happy and ful­fill­ing lives.

Tammy Web­ber and Brady McCombs are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

Cour­tesy Jen­nifer Smith

A photo taken Fri­day shows Jayme Closs (right) re­cov­er­ing at the home of her aunt, Jen­nifer Smith, in Bar­ron, Wis. Jayme’s grand­fa­ther, Robert Naiberg, said Sun­day that, con­sid­er­ing the cir­cum­stances, the 13-year-old kid­nap vic­tim is “in ex­cep­tion­ally good spir­its.”

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