CHICAGO (AP) – Katie Beers’ joy quickly turned to deep concern when she learned 13-year-old Jayme Closs had been found alive in rural Wisconsin nearly three months after police say a man shot and killed her parents then abducted the girl from their home.
“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,” said Beers. “And it’s not going to be easy.”
Beers knows that better than most.
Yesterday marked 26 years since a then-10-year-old Beers was rescued from an underground concrete bunker in Bay Shore, New York, where she had been held captive for more than two weeks by a family friend who had lured her to his home with the promise of birthday presents.
As Jayme begins to process her trauma, experts and former victims say what she needs most is space and time to discuss it on her own terms. And with the help of a supportive and understanding family, she likely will be able to recover and live a happy life.
“One of the things that helped me recover so quickly is that nobody forced me to talk about what happened,” said Beers, 36, who is married and has two children. “I didn’t even do interviews until I was 30. I didn’t have to relive it every day.”
Authorities said Jayme was skinny, disheveled and wearing shoes too big for her when she approached a stranger and pleaded for help last Thursday in the small north woods town of Gordon, about 60 miles from her hometown of Barron. Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, was quickly arrested and jailed on kidnapping and homicide charges.
It’s unclear exactly what Jayme experienced — including whether she was coerced with threats or physically abused — so people must be careful how they interact with her, said Duane Bowers, a trauma therapist who works with families of missing and exploited children and adults.
Although friends and family might be eager to know details, the only control the victim has is when, to whom and how they tell their story, Bowers said, adding that’s especially true of Jayme, who has lost so much.
For most child kidnapping victims, they have the hope that their parents will find them, “but in this case she knew her folks were dead and couldn’t find her,” Bowers said. So now, “she needs to feel … in control and experience her memories in a way that … doesn’t retrigger” her trauma.