The Kidnapped People’s Survivors Group
It may be one of the earliest concepts learned in the practice of psychotherapy…that people do better when they are matched with others who have similar problems. Alcoholics help each other in recovery, abused women, disabled people, trauma groups of all sorts, cancer survivors, rape survivors, and on and on.
When I was first asked to treat Katie Beers she had just been released from captivity; held 17 days in a dungeon, sexually abused and traumatized….and needing to get ready to testify against the men who abused her. She was placed in a great foster care family in Springs. I treated her for 10 years and continue a relationship with her even today. She recently published her memoir; “Buried Memories” which has been a best seller. She devoted a chapter to her therapy and our time together.
Many moments stand out for me during that time. But one of the most poignant was my decision to ask another kidnap survivor to join us for some sessions.
Mr. Harvey Weinstein was a successful businessman in New York City who was kidnapped by some employees and held in an underground grave (for ransom) for 13 days until the police found him. This was around the same time Katie was released from her underground dungeon, after being held for 17 days. I watched Mr. Weinstein being interviewed on TV and I was immediately struck by his sonorous voice, his gentle presence and his humor. I learned he had a home in East Hampton.
I called him against the advice of a few fellow professionals I consulted. They warned me that Mr. Weinstein was 75 and Katie was 9. They worried that Katie would be re-traumatized to learn that an adult had gone through a similar experience. But I listened to my instincts.
On the phone I got right to the point. “I am treating a young girl who was kidnapped. would you consider joining us for a few sessions to help her get through this initial phase of her trauma?” He did not hesitate for a moment. Naturally I met him first and screened him…just to be sure he was as impressive as I imagined. He certainly was. He was not coming as a patient but as a helper, a comrade.
Our sessions were amazing: emotional and filled with laughter and tears. Harvey was a 75 year old Jewish Marine. Katie was a nine year old street urchin and yet they used similar techniques to survive their captivity. In particular, they both went back over every moment of their lives…to try to remember every moment, every event, every second. This technique allowed them to review their lives and to have hope for a future. It also helped with massive fear and anxiety.
Harvey and Katie helped one another as well. They shared a similar experience. Harvey asked “Did you get mad that the police didn’t find you right away?” Katie stated that she was never mad. Harvey told her to get mad! Katie asked Harvey if he had forgiven his kidnappers. He stated he would never forgive. Katie told him forgiveness was important, There were tears that day.
There was much laughter over the 4 or 5 times we met as well. Harvey kidded her that she had a TV in her dungeon and she was spoiled! Katie reminded him that she was held for 4 days longer that he was.
It was an unusual group. The Kidnapped People’s Survivor’s Group. But I like to think that it could have only taken place in East Hampton. A place where many types of people gather, a loving year round community and the Springs School who protected Katie and helped her recover with privacy and love and the help of an East End gentleman; Harvey Weinstein, who was willing to involve himself with something different, something wondrous, something unusual, like the place we live and the people we are.