The concept of “Identity Rupture” is so central to understanding the impact of long-term abduction that it seems prudent to dedicate a post to explaining it. The term is one coined nearly a decade ago to describe a phenomenon that was emerging as a key common experience binding members of Take Root across a wide variety of individual case circumstances. Today, Take Root defines Identity Rupture as abrupt, extreme changes in the following:
Autobiographical facts about the child’s life, such as name, date of birth, place of birth, names of family members.
….all of which are often changed in order to keep the child hidden. These are basic building blocks of identity – concrete facts about who you are that are supposedly immutable. Unless, of course, you enter the witness protection program or go on the lam…or are abducted.
Environmental factors in the child’s life; the people, places and things with which the child is familiar.
…many of Take Root’s members lost everyone and everything they knew and loved, overnight. Those of you who have ever experienced the loss of a loved one, I invite you to try imagining extending that loss to include EVERYONE all at once….and not being afforded the opportunity to grieve or being offered any comfort. In fact, you have to pretend nothing out of the ordinary has happened….now imagine being 8 when this happens.
The expected and acceptable behaviors.
…our members almost always experienced abrupt shifts such as being taught before the abduction that lying is bad then being taught TO lie after being abducted; being taught that policemen help people then being taught to fear police; or, in almost every case, transitioning from being a child to being a source of emotional support, accomplice, protector, and/or caregiver for their taking parent after the abduction…many Rooters have described abduction as simply “the end of childhood.”
An important thing to note about Identity Rupture is that it occurs regardless of the taking parent’s motivation or intent. Children can experience Identity Rupture whether they are taken to flee abuse, or as an instrument of revenge, or for any reason in between. This truth is both a bitter pill for victims of domestic violence who abduct when the system fails to protect, and, a powerful insight for cases in which taking parents wield allegations of abuse that never actually occurred.
One final point of observation about the concept of Identity Rupture is that it has been central to Take Root’s ongoing internal discussions about the definition of abduction itself. Abduction seems, on the surface, like a simple term we all understand in the same way. Yet like an onion, the moment you remove the skin, multiple layers emerge…but that’s a subject for another post. For now I will leave you with this exquisite observation from Take Root founding member Kelly Yokum. She wrote in her blog, The Lonely Gerontologist:
“Part of who I am is rooted in that early experience of my dislocation of self, that identity rupture that occured and never came fully back together. Like a broken vase, glued back together, but never again that perfect fit, never again able to find that smooth edge where there used to be one full piece of glass. There is instead, a rough edge, a damaged edge, a side that can be hidden but, no matter which way you turn it, no matter how beautiful the flowers that fill it, it’s still there.”