Survival Options:
Hostage Survival & Escape

Survival options for pawn, ransom, and slave hostages begin with this insight:

Police find home invasion scenes where the victims are all tied up and all dead. There'll be a group large enough to put up a fight, yet they let themselves get tied up. The criminals reassure them, 'We just want to tie you up. We won't hurt you." The victims believed it.

The Lie You Want to Believe

When someone is told a lie they desperately want to believe, they usually will believe it – as when a captor tells a captive, “Do what I say and I won’t hurt you.” But, obviously, anyone who threatens violence is not trustworthy. Such as when a captor holds a weapon on one victim to demand obedience from the others (a hostage/slave situation), he'll very possibly kill them all anyway.

Kevin Bright, 19, and his sister Kathryn, 21, arrived home to find a gunman waiting in a bedroom. He told them he wasn't going to hurt them and only wanted their car. The man forced Kevin to bind his sister, then he bound Kevin and shot him twice. Kevin played dead. The man took Kathryn to another room and slowly killed her.

Kevin Bright is the only victim known to survive an attack by Dennis Rader of Wichita KS – the self-proclaimed BTK: Bind, Torture, Kill serial killer.

Two men entered through an unlocked door in Sydney AU, attacked a couple, and bound their hands with cords. One man put down his gun to bind the wife. The husband left a space between his hands, pretended he was vomiting while freeing his hands, and grabbed the gun. The thugs fled.

He grabbed the gun because the thugs hadn't covered their faces to hide their identity – so he assumed they were going to kill them.

Sometimes hostages survive unscathed. But without a crystal ball, the victims can’t predict if the criminal will simply rob and leave or, if not wearing a mask to hide his identity, he’ll kill all eyewitnesses. The criminal may originally plan only to rob, but if he decides to bind his victims to ensure his getaway – he may realize that they can identify him later - yet he has life-and-death control over them now.

On The Other Hand, these victims were briefly held hostage yet survived:

The couple saw a car pull up on their street in a very quiet neighborhood in Durham NC. One of them opened the door to peek out, and three gunmen stormed in, saying over and over, "Do you want to die today? Don't look at me." The woman says she didn't look as they were robbed. See Home Security - Push-In

Terry Pettigrew and Mark Bowden walked through Richard R. Mayer's Alta Sierra CA home's unlocked door and beat, bound, and robbed him. After discussing it, they decided not to shoot Mayer, and left. See Home Security - Walk-In

Two teenage brothers were home alone in the upscale California neighborhood when the younger boy answered a knock on the door. Two gunmen forced their way in, tied up the boys, looted the home, and left without harming the boys. Again, see Home Security - Push-In

82-year-old Dora Bryant and 80-year-old Lawrence Bryant were gardening in their Williamsburg VA front yard when a man with a knife forced them inside the home and beat, bound, and robbed them. He left without killing them. See Home Security - Mug-In

Victim’s Options in a Hostage Situation – use your intuition to choose:
Posturing will unlikely intimidate an armed hostage-taker.
Fleeing – the sooner the better. Anyone escaping might soon bring the police. He may just flee as he realizes the police will arrive soon.
Outsmarting – choose a ploy that you can use.
Surrendering puts you fully at the mercy of a criminal. However, your intuition may (wisely) tell you to submit.
Fighting is to attack him with the passionate intent to fully disable him. This also breaks the spellbound fear paralysis and creates chaos to allow a group attack on the gunman and/or at least one victim to run for help.

POSSIBLY the Best of the Survival Options

Three men with clubs invaded a Calgary home, but didn't realize seven people were inside. When they tried to bind one of the residents, the others began stabbing and hacking the thugs with kitchen knives and a meat cleaver. The victims held the injured robbers for police.

Although survival of life-and-death crises allow no guarantees, possibly the best response to a hostage crime – following your intuition – is to refuse to be bound, and instead surprise him with a sudden, furious attack. The sooner you act the better. If one of you does act, the others had better immediately join in, or create chaos – such as fleeing while yelling, “I’m getting our neighbor the cop." Destroy his control and spur him to flee!

Just before dawn near Boston, Jean and Kevin McDonough ran to the bedroom of their screaming 15-year-old daughter and found a burly masked man holding a knife to her throat. The family attacked him. The father held him in a headlock as the mother wrested the knife from him and the daughter called police. Until police arrived, the family overwhelmed serial killer Adam Leroy Lane.

A panic-button/siren on a house alarm system could be a lifesaver in such survival situations. A shrieking alarm usually sends criminals running.

Sanford Strong, SWAT team instructor and author of “Strong on Defense” maintains that any victim fleeing is a powerful deterrent to the crime scene getting worse. If he reacts by killing any of his hostages, then he probably had been inclined all along to kill them. Running away is not abandoning the other victims. It’s perhaps the best of the survival options to save them. Even a husband leaving his wife in dire straits, or a parent leaving a child – gut wrenching and unnatural as that may feel – is probably the most viable survival option in a horrific situation. Discuss this unpleasant survival subject with your loved ones now to be prepared – just in case. Teach children, especially, that their job is to run outside for help.

In hostage situations, the initial assault will be very violent. The rescue will be violent, too. Keep down on the floor with your limbs outstretched and not moving. The police might accidentally shoot anything that moves.

Military survival schools teach that a hostage’s greatest danger is hopelessness. Planning an escape/survival strategy gives a sense of hope. The first part of that planning is befriending and cooperating with your captors so they’ll be less likely to kill you. The second part is always calmly testing the limits of how far they’ll allow you to stray beyond their control – toward an escape opportunity. The optimal mindset is 'stubbornly hopeful' – not despairing over your plight, but rather planning for survival. See more at Optimal Mindset.

Perhaps you can avoid being taken hostage altogether by learning how best to avoid Kidnapping. Also see how to avoid Hostage-Taking


Deter a predator by holding Pepper Spray & a Personal Security Alarm (noisemaker or screamer) in plain sight. You'll also learn how to use them most effectively. And an alarm may help prevent a hostage-taking.

Crime-Safety-Security > Survival Options Overview > Hostage Survival & Escape

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