Many, if not all, who have either directly or indirectly been caught up in the turmoil of a kidnapping will attest to having at some stage experienced a profound sense of loneliness. The very visceral act of being taken hostage, or having a loved one taken hostage, represents a highly traumatic experience that catapults not only the hostage but also the hostage’s unsuspecting family, friends and colleagues into what can feel like a parallel universe. Everyone is looking for answers to sometimes existential questions for which there are no guidelines or operating manuals. Beyond the intensity and extreme volatility of the experience, hostage crises can also last for lengthy periods of time; adding further complexity to the challenges and stresses faced by victims. Almost all those that have experienced such events therefore speak to having been marked for life by their experiences.
At Hostage Italia, a group of ex-hostages, ex-hostages’ family members, and experts in their respective fields came together to offer support to those facing the trauma of such events head-on. The first of its kind in Italy, Hostage Italia extends all manner of services to the victims of kidnapping and their families so that no individual need feel abandoned. Set up as a non-profit association, its mission is to assist victims to navigate and manage the many questions and choices they are confronted with at a time of particular distress and duress. Through a network of responders who have themselves experienced the trauma of a kidnap, alongside specialist service providers from key sectors, Hostage Italia accompanies victims upon their return, and their families throughout the period of disappearance and reintegration of their loved one. The form this support takes depends on the needs of the individual, but can cover technical or personal needs. Any engagement by Hostage Italia is initiated by the individual via our hotline, website or through any member of our wider contact network.
Our depth and breadth of knowledge within the Italian context is magnified by our connection to a global network represented by the UK-based Hostage International. The last decade has proven that hostage-taking is a global rather than national problem. We are deeply aware of this at Hostage Italia and although we are an Italian organisation with a deep understanding of the social and political realities in Italy, we have purposefully enabled our organisation to be in a position to leverage a truly global network of resources.
Since its inception Hostage Italia has sought to strengthen its response capabilities. We are constantly building our network of specialists and supporters and continue to welcome interest from any stakeholder across Italy and Europe. We also however recognise the value of greater preparedness by all stakeholders across Italian society. Individuals, businesses / corporations with international presence, local and regional authorities, media entities, national governments – every one of these stakeholders have critical roles to play. Whether the aim is to mitigate the risk exposure individuals and business face in their international operations, or to be better prepared to manage a crisis when such events do occur, the stark reality of our collective lessons-learned is that much more can and indeed should be done to exercise duty-of-care that is embedded in a principle of “do-no-harm”. Stakeholders in such circumstances are often asked to perform a delicate balance between providing duty-of-care (even when this is a moral imperative rather than a legal liability) whilst exercising their day-to-day responsibilities. At times the needs of those directly involved in a hostage crisis may seem diametrically opposed to their own. At Hostage Italia we believe that with greater dialogue and through greater training before any crisis occurs – the interests of all parties can align, to the benefit of victims directly and for society as a whole.
As one of our co-founders, Federico Motka wrote in a preface to Umberto Saccone’s book “Protocollo S”: “The phenomenon of kidnapping and ransom as a power tactic is unlikely to disappear anytime soon; it is that effective (and brutal) a weapon. Although the incidences of kidnapping ebb and flow, it presents a constant menace. Most importantly, it is a threat that doesn’t only manifest itself to those who make the difficult choice to work in high-risk environments; history teaches us that kidnapping and ransom can permeate any society.”
To this end we intend to offer our support and experience to efforts that advocate for legislative and operational changes across our society that benefit those impacted by hostage-taking. Hostage Italia delivers training and tools for businesses, government departments, media groups and NGOs around best practices in family support and hostage reintegration. Through our services, we encourage stakeholders to adopt policies and practices that balance duty-of-care with their other imperatives, and support efforts to raise the level of discourse nationally and internationally around how best to protect citizens from, and respond to, hostage-related crimes.
We look forward to the dialogue and engagement to come and encourage anyone to contact us to find out more about our organisation and services.
by Hostage Italia