Jayme Closs of Wisconsin was reported missing on October 15, 2018 after her parents were found fatally shot inside of their home. Nearly three months later on Thursday, January 10, the 13-year-old reportedly emerged from a wooded area nearly 70 miles from home and flagged down a woman walking her dog for help.
According to the Associated Press, ex-kidnapping victims such as Elizabeth Smart and Katie Beers – who know first hand what the young teenager is going through – have come forward to not only react to her being found alive, but to offer advice to both Jayme and the media as everyone tries to move forward from the tragedy.
Today marks the 26th anniversary since Katie Beers was recovered from a concrete bunker where a family friend had kidnapped and held her prisoner for over two weeks after luring her in. Beers was just 10-years-old when she was kidnapped. Today, she’s 36 with two children.
“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. And it’s not going to be easy,” Beers said.
Beers continued to explain that one of the things Jayme would need most – in addition to support and compassion from her loved ones – is space to process what had happened to her.
“One of the things that helped me recover so quickly is that nobody forced me to talk about what happened. I didn’t even do interviews until I was 30. I didn’t have to relive it every day,” Beers continued to explain.
According to the Associated Press, trauma experts have urged both the media and those close to Jayme to exercise caution when speaking with her about what happened. While it is understandable that those close to her – and the authorities – want details regarding what happened to her and how Jake Thomas Patterson went about kidnapping her, both trauma experts and other kidnapping survivors have made it clear it is important to let Jayme initiate those conversations instead of pushing her for information.
— New York Post (@nypost) January 13, 2019
Elizabeth Smart was just 14-years-old when she was kidnapped from her home at knifepoint back in 2002. Smart told the Associated Press every kidnapping victim is going to process the trauma differently, but the most important thing for Jayme to do is find a way to embrace that she cannot go back to the way things were before she was kidnapped.
“Probably one of the more difficult issues is going to be finding that new sense of normalcy in her life. Not recreating the old but (creating) the new and learning to be OK with that.”
There were many heroes in this tragic story. The sad fact remains that a young girl lost her parents and lived through a nightmare that we can only imagine. https://t.co/zBTNIdjUOx
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) January 13, 2019
Smart, like Beers, was able to find a way to pick up the pieces and heal to where she could live a happy and fulfilling life. Today, she is 31-years-old with three children.
Elizabeth urged those speaking to Closs to think about questions before asking them. She recalled how defensive she felt when people would ask her why she didn’t make more of an effort to get away from her own captors. While, as an adult, Smart now knows people didn’t mean any harm when asking those questions, that wasn’t how she felt at the time they were asking them.
“My brain heard that question as: ‘You should have tried harder. You should have run, you should have yelled, this is somehow your fault.’ So, I would just caution her community and anyone able to interact with her to really think about the questions they are asking her,” Smart continued to explain.
Smart told the Associated Press that Jayme needs to know she is a survivor and a hero.
Jayme Closs Smiles with Uncle in New Photo After Being Reunited with Family Following Escape https://t.co/JW7994bhMQ
— People (@people) January 12, 2019
“And I would tell her that this experience might feel like it’s defining, it might feel like that’s who she is now, but it doesn’t have to be,” she added.
Elizabeth also noted that Jayme managing to escape her captor and find help is why people should “never give up hope on any missing child.”