Is Stockholm Syndrome a real diagnosis or just sexist trash?
On Thursday, August 23, 1973, a convicted felon Jan-Erik Olsson entered the Kreditbanken Bank in Stockholm, Sweden (technically Norrmalmstrong); he was wearing a wig, painted his eyebrows black, pulled out a submachine gun, and yelled in English with an American accent “the party has begun!”
He fired several shots into the ceiling, announced this was a robbery, and ordered people to the ground. A silent alarm alerted the police, and two officers showed up (one of them unarmed.) Ollson shot one of the officers in his hand while the other was ordered to sit in a chair and sing “Lonesome Cowboy” while taking four hostages into a vault.
Six days later, the entire group, including convicted criminal Clark Olofsson, came out of the bank sacred, dehydrated, and in fear for their lives. They were all scared of the cops, and the kidnap victims had so much sympathy they hugged the captors before being taken to the hospital. All refused to testify against their kidnappers and said they felt more terrified of being harmed by the police than the criminals who held them for days at gunpoint.
The term “Stockholm Syndrome” or, more accurately, Norrmalmstrong Syndrome” was created by Nils Bejerot (a criminologist and psychiatrist), who theorized that victims come to love their kidnappers as a coping mechanism. This would also be the basis of other labels that pathologize and often discredit victims, like trauma bonding (or TROW-MAh, according to Jamie Lee Curtis), battered wife syndrome, and why women seem to pick abusive men.
Over the years, the bank heist and kidnapping situation has been revisited and revised to show a complete picture of what happened in these six days and why Stockholm Syndrome might be a false theory. In short, it’s a creepy diagnosis meant to show women how weak they are under pressure. We think it is bullshit.
Sources for this episode:
Crying Out for Justice Blog
DR. Allen Wade Rethinking Stockholm Syndrome (YouTube)
The Independent UK
Today I Found Out.com
Clark Olofsson Wikipedia
Memory Motel podcast
The History of Stockholm Syndrome PDF
Reason Based Practice
The New Yorker (November 17, 1974)
Six Days in August: The Story of the Stockholm Syndrome by David King
Trigger warnings: Kidnapping, gun violence, and Margo’s bad pronunciations