A return home for abducted children almost always triggers an emotionally painful time of recovery, says an American author who studies cases of parental kidnapping.

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A return home for abducted children almost always triggers an emotionally painful time of recovery, says an American author who studies cases of parental kidnapping.

"There are a range of possible reactions to an abduction and they vary, based on who the child was taken by and how closely they were attached to the abductor and to the parent who was left behind... and the types of experience they had while they were on the run," Geoffrey Greif said Monday.

He's the author of more than 100 books, including co-author of When Parents Kidnap, a book about the experiences reported by adults who were child kidnap victims.

Finding their physical freedom opened the doors to a painful realization they were still trapped emotionally, Greif said. Each victim reported they had to peel off layers of psychological trauma at their own pace.

Dominic and Abby Maryk will need patience from their mother, the education system and mental-health therapists who will work with them from now on, he said.

"They're probably going to have a pretty difficult reunification with their mother and they've got some hard adjustments, as does she," said Greif.

The author, who earned his social work doctorate at New York's Columbia University, is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

U.S. federal justice statistics indicate about 200,000 family abductions happen every year. Some six per cent of cases last longer than six months.

In Greif's book, eight adults shared their experiences as childhood victims of parental kidnapping.

Once they were reunited with the parent left behind, there were nightmares and bed-wetting, fears of doors and windows, fears of authority and strangers, anger at the abducting parent and the one who was left behind. Anxiety, depression, and problems with school complicated recovery.

Told that Abby Maryk insisted on bringing her dog back to Canada from Mexico, Greif reacted with genuine surprise: "Ah. OK. Nice."

The gesture shows attachment and love, he suggested. That brother Dominic remembered Winnipeg and wanted a Slurpee struck another positive chord with the expert: "So, he has some fond memories...

"The mother is going to have to be working with mental-health therapists, very slowly, to see if they are willing to talk about their experiences."

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca