Captivating Facts About Hostage Situations

“I didn't want to accept that people would forget me, that the government wouldn't do anything to negotiate our freedom. After a year, I came to understand that not only had one year passed, many more would come.”—Ingrid Betancourt

Death eventually calls on everyone, but most of us fear and fight it until our dying breaths.

Perhaps this is why we find hostage movies so gripping—we understand the fear of potential impending death and live vicariously through the captives who manage to narrowly escape it.

And, of course, Hollywood is bound to toss in a little Stockholm syndrome romance for good measure. Because if there’s one thing that resonates more with humans than death, it’s love.

But what are actual, real life hostage situations like? The truth is a lot more tedious, painful, and dehumanizing for those involved than Hollywood makes it out to be.

Hostages can be kept for years at a time without being able to speak to others or see where they are, and most go unreported.

Here is a list of 24 true facts about the heroism of hostage negotiators, the traumatic experiences of captives, and the gripping details of rescue missions.

“If we remain hostage to our past, then we will go nowhere.”—Shehbaz Sharif

Hostage Situations Facts

24. White House to the Rescue

Since its founding in 2015, the White House’s Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell has assisted in the release of about 100 hostages by coordinating hostage recovery operations. About 25 of those hostages had been held by terrorist groups.

Hostage Situations facts

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23. No Pain, No Gain

Wherever there is tragedy, there is also someone profiting off it. In the case of hostage situations, the ones profiting are the hostage insurance brokers.

They make their money by offering consulting and kidnap and ransom insurance to big companies who are worried their employees might be at risk.

Kidnap and ransom insurance can cost a large, international company tens of thousands of dollars–sometimes even more money than just paying a ransom outright.

Hostage Situations facts


22. Fear of the Unknown

During the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, 52 hostages were kept in the American embassy in Tehran for over a year by  group of Iranian students. They were humiliated by their captors.

They were forced to remain silent, to wear dirty clothes, and to listen to ridicule while they were blindfolded. Worst of all, the hostages did not know how long they would be held or what their captors would to do them while they were there.

Hostage Situations facts