views updated May 23 2018


The abduction of children for various purposes (ransom and extortion, work, sex, power, custody) has historically been a feature of many societies. In the twentieth century, these abductions became more widely publicized and came to carry very great symbolic power. As childhood itself became an enormously potent focus for social and personal anxieties, child abduction registered as a threat to ordinary people as well as to the prominent individuals to whom it once seemed restricted. The perception of the frequency of such abductions has increased markedly in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, largely because childhood seems to have become more vulnerable and less sheltered while a

number of issues relating to the family have become important public concerns. The mass media have also learned to use child abduction as an issue that evokes strong emotions. In the recent past in the United States and Europe, accelerating divorce, women's growing role outside the home, and public fears about pedophilia have put a spotlight on child abduction, while dissatisfactions about class disparities in the developing economies of Latin America has once again brought ransom abduction into international headlines.

Through most of human history and for the vast majority of people, child abandonment has been a far more serious social matter than the deliberate abduction of children. Nevertheless, in Europe and many parts of the Mediterranean world, among kings, nobles, and merchants, the abduction of children for reasons of state or alliance could be a serious means to usurp power or force large payments. And even among the general population brigandage, which often involved the threat of theft in property or children, could be a way to challenge power relationships. This kind of abduction was also practiced, on a group rather than individual basis, among native peoples in North America and Africa. Usually as a part of war strategy, the abduction of women and children was a means to augment population and under-mine the strength of competing clan or tribal groups. European colonists in North America experienced some of these abductions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as native peoples sought to defeat their enemies by absorbing their children into their own culture.

Although they also raise questions about cultural and personal identity, modern forms of abduction have been over-whelmingly individual acts that prey on personal sentiments and attachments to children rather than challenges to cultural or political domination. Thus the most common form of child abduction in late-nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century America were kidnappings for ransom. In these cases, a child's safe return was predicated on the delivery of a large sum of money. The first such well-known abduction was of four-year old Charley Ross in 1874 in Philadelphia. But historically the case most closely associated with this type of crime, because of the enormous publicity it generated, was the abduction and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr. in New Jersey in 1932. The child's father was aviator-hero Charles A. Lindbergh, the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic (in 1927) and his fame assured that the case would dominate world headlines for months. Ransom abductions exploited the modern Western family's attachments to children and strongly confirmed the cultural elevation of each child to the status of a precious, irreplaceable individual within the family.

Other forms of abduction also became prominent during this time. In the nineteenth century some children were abducted, usually briefly, for the purposes of begging or street entertainment, some ("Black Hand" abductions), as part of extortion demands by one crime group against another. Since the mid-nineteenth century, some abductions resulted from the desire of women to mother children they could not otherwise obtain. In the 1970s and 1980s, the abduction of the children of prominent business figures in Europe and the United States became a part of the operations of left-wing terror groups. (Such abductions also became common in Latin America at the end of the twentieth century.) The most famous of these was the abduction of the twenty-yearold newspaper heiress, Patricia Hearst, in Berkeley, California in 1974. This case lasted for several years, as the group of terrorists who kidnapped her (the Symbionese Liberation Army) engaged in a campaign against American institutions in which cause they enlisted their victim.

The most common modern form of abduction, and certainly the one with the most momentum, has been the abduction of children caught in custody disputes between parents or other family members. In these cases, children are prevented from returning to parents who either share legal custody, or are entitled to visitation rights with the child. Children in such cases are often pawns in a tense battle between parents or other family members, and they are sometimes abducted to protect them from what one parent may believe is abuse or neglect on the part of the other parent. Parental abductions became very numerous in the last third of the twentieth century, as divorce rates skyrocketed in Western societies, but they have been well known and amply documented throughout the century. At their most extreme, such abductions can result in parents not seeing their children for years. But the vast majority of these family disputes usually involve short periods of time during which the child is absent from a parent's life. A recent variant of these family kidnappings has been those which involve international abductions, the consequence of disputes between parents of different nations and cultures. The international cases are often the most aggravated and frequently result in the complete severance of relations between the parent (usually the mother) from the life and activities of the child. The situation has led to a great deal of publicity and diplomatic activity, and the creation of the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction (1988) in an attempt to both prevent and mediate disputes of this kind among signatory nations.

By the end of the twentieth century, the number of parental abductions in the United States had grown very large (the number of serious parental abductions in the United States has been estimated as close to 150,000 cases each year), and its prominence as a social problem became inter-twined with another old, but newly alarming form of child abductionthe abduction of children by strangers for sexual and sadistic abuse. Although such cases had been suspected before (for example, the abduction and murder of Robert Franks by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb in 1924), by the 1970s and 1980s, several factors came together to bring these terrifying forms of abduction vividly into the public arena. These included widespread changes in sexual mores; the vastly expanded workplace participation of women with young children and attendant childcare problems; and the prominence of new victims' advocacy groups eager to pass protective legislation. Especially important in this regard were new laws introduced in the 1980s that required doctors and others invested with public authority to report all kinds of suspected child abuse. Several cases of child abduction heavily covered by the media brought the issue to the public's attention: the kidnappings of Etan Patz (1979), Adam Walsh (1981), Kevin White (1984), Jacob Wetterling (1989), and Polly Klaas (1993). These cases, which took place in all parts of the country and in small towns as well as big cities, were a source of great alarm as the public discussion merged the various strands of the modern missing-children phenomenon into one public campaign. Children abducted by strangers (always a small number) and children abducted in custody disputes, together with runaways were all counted together as part of a newly hysterical fear about missing children.

The campaign created in the 1980s on behalf of missing children involved private foundations, as well as newly publicly funded institutions (the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1984), and it was monitored by legislative committees, a new FBI registry, and in the media. Together these created elaborate parental fears about the vulnerability of all children in America, fears fanned by proliferating posters and billboards, missing-children advertisements on milk cartons and in home mailings, new kidnapping insurance and public finger-printing efforts, and the massive news coverage of suspected cases and television programming of real and invented kidnappings.

By the 1990s, some of the furor had subsided in the United States as new information gathered by the Justice Department about the actual prevalence of stranger abductions calmed an inflamed atmosphere. But a similar kind of hysteria enveloped a number of European countries, among them Belgium, France, and Germany. In these countries, and others, a new concern with the prevalence of pedophile rings, and gruesome publicity about the discovery of the bodies of missing children spread alarm throughout European culture, hitherto largely unresponsive to the American issues of sexual stranger abductions. In 1996, 300,000 concerned Belgians gathered in a massive demonstration in Brussels to speak out against the perceived threat to their country's children, a threat they believed to have been mishandled by a corrupt police.

In the 1990s, the spread of the Internet and the possibilities that this seemed to offer for strangers to lure children from inside their own homes created a new kind of alarm about the safety of children. By the late twentieth century these fears about the safety of children was gathering in a number of places and around an assortment of issues, most of them centered on sexual exploitation. Child abduction seemed to be only the most fearsome of the many sexual dangers to which children now seemed exposed, such as sex rings in child-care centers, satanic rituals, and pedophilia in churches and other public places. The sexual exploitation of children, which is hardly a new phenomenon, became in the late twentieth century a startling symbol of parents' inability to protect their increasingly vulnerable children. Where in the past, only the rich or powerful were subject to abductions, today, all parents seem helpless before the possibility that their children, to whom they feel a deep emotional attachment, might be exploited, mutilated, or killed. The new fear haunts the early-twenty-first-century imagination, an imagination fed by a news and entertainment industry which has learned over the course of the twentieth century how best to titillate and shock the modern sensibility. Today, the child's place in that sensibility has been secured through the very threat to its well-being that child abduction seems to bring into every home.

See also: Abduction in Modern Africa; Divorce and Custody; Lindbergh Kidnapping; Mortara Abduction.


Best, Joel. 1990. Threatened Children: Rhetoric and Concern about Child Victims. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Demos, John. 1994. The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story. New York: Knopf.

Fass, Paula S. 1997. Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Finkelhor, David, Gerald Hoteling, and Andrea Sedlak. 1990. Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children in America. First Report: Numbers and Characteristics, National Incidence Studies. Washington, DC: United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Paula S. Fass


views updated May 17 2018


ABDUCTION (or Manstealing; Heb. גְּנֵבַת נֶפֶשׁ, genevat nefesh), stealing of a human being for capital gain. According to the Bible, abduction is a capital offense. "He who kidnaps a man – whether he has sold him or is still holding him – shall be put to death" (Ex. 21:16); and, "If a man is found to have kidnapped a fellow Israelite, enslaving him or selling him, that kidnapper shall die" (Deut. 24:7). The first passage appears to prohibit the abduction of any person, while the latter is confined to Israelites only; the first appears to outlaw any abduction, however motivated (cf. Codex Hammurapi, 14), while the latter requires either enslavement or sale as an essential element to constitute the offense. Talmudic law, in order to reconcile these conflicting scriptural texts or to render prosecution for this capital offense more difficult (or for both purposes), made the detention, the enslavement, and the sale of the abducted person all necessary elements of the offense, giving the Hebrew "and" (which in the translation quoted above is rendered as "or") its cumulative meaning (Sanh. 85b, 86a). Thus, abduction without detention or enslavement or sale, like enslavement or sale or detention without abduction, however morally reprehensible, was not punishable (even by *flogging), because none of these acts was in itself a completed offense. On the other hand, even the slightest, most harmless, and casual use of the abducted person would amount to "enslavement"; and as for the "sale," it does not matter that the sale of any human being (other than a slave) is legally void (bk 68b). In this context, any attempt at selling the person, by delivering him or her into the hands of a purchaser, would suffice. However, the attempted sale has to be proved in addition to the purchaser's custody, because giving away the abducted person as a gift would not be a "sale" even for this purpose (Rashba to bk 78b). The term rendered in the translation quoted above as "kidnap" is ganov ("steal"). The injunction of the Decalogue, "Thou shalt not steal" (Ex. 20:13), has been interpreted to refer to the stealing of persons rather than the stealing of chattels. The reason for this is both because the latter is proscribed elsewhere (Lev. 19:11), and because of the context of the command next to the interdictions of murder and adultery, both of which are capital offenses and offenses against the human person (Mekh. Mishpatim 5). It has been said that this interpretation reflects the abhorrence with which the talmudic jurists viewed this particular crime; alternatively, it has been maintained that the reliance on the general words "Thou shalt not steal" made the interdiction of manstealing applicable also to non-Jews and hence amounted to a repudiation of slave trading, which in other legal systems of the period was considered wholly legitimate.

There is no recorded instance of any prosecution for abduction – not, presumably, because no abductions occurred, but because it proved difficult, if not impossible, to find the required groups of *witnesses. These would have been required not only for each of the constituent elements of the offense, but also for the prescribed warnings that first had to be administered to the accused in respect of the abduction, the detention, the enslavement, and the sale, separately. The classical instance of abduction reported in the Bible is Joseph's sale into slavery (Gen. 37; cf. 40:15, "I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews"). In the Talmud there is a report from Alexandria that brides were abducted from under the canopy (bm 104a; Tosef. Ket. 4:9), not necessarily for enslavement or sale, but (as it appears from the context) for marriage to the abductors.

[Haim Hermann Cohn]

In Israeli Law

trafficking in human beings to engage in prostitution

At the beginning of 2000, in the framework of Amendment 56 of the Penal Law, provisions were enacted that prohibited trafficking in human beings for engagement in prostitution. Pursuant to this amendment, section 203a of the Penal Law established a maximum punishment of 16 years' imprisonment for anyone who "sells or purchases a person in order to engage him in prostitution or serving as a middleman in the selling or purchasing of a person for this purpose."

Trafficking in human beings has been prohibited since the very dawn of the history of Jewish Law, in the framework of the commandment of "Thou shall not steal" (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16) and the prohibitions concerning abduction mentioned above. "Joseph's sale by his brothers was an ignominious episode of Jewish history and was regarded as having sealed the fate of the Ten Martyrs" (see Rubinstein). The Knesset's enactment of the aforementioned amendment was in accordance with Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, sec. 2 of which states: "There shall be no violation of the life, body, or dignity of any person as such," while sec. 4 states that "All persons are entitled to protection of their life, body, and dignity."

Jewish Law's prohibition of abduction and the death penalty imposed on the abductor are only applicable upon the satisfaction of four cumulative conditions: an abduction of a human being; the abductee's detention in the abductor's premises; the abductee's enslavement by the abductor; and the abductee's subsequent sale to another (Maim., Yad, Genevah 9:2). Some of the geonim were lenient regarding the requirement that all four conditions be satisfied and convicted the abductor where he had abducted and sold, or abducted and enslaved (see in detail Halakhah Berurah, Sanh. 85b).

The Israeli legislator broadened the prohibition to include serving as a middleman, in addition to the elements of abduction, detention, and sale. Under Israeli Law both the abductor-seller and the buyer are equally culpable and share the same punishment, whereas under Jewish law the abductor is the sole offender. The need for deterrence led the Israeli legislator to broaden the circle of offenders, imposing criminal liability upon the seller, the middleman, and the buyer. With respect to punishment for trading in women, this facilitates punishment even if only some of those involved in the offense are actually caught, and even if the prime actor – the seller – is still at large (occasionally abroad) and hence difficult to capture. The Supreme Court stressed that the prohibition of trading in human beings is intended to prevent violations of human dignity, especially that of women sold for prostitution. Hence, section 203a of the Penal Law should be constructed broadly and applied to any transaction that results in a person being treated as property, be it by way of sale, day-hiring, borrowing, partnership, or any other creation of a proprietary connection to a person (Cr. a 11196/02 Prodental v. State of Israel, 57 (6) 40, per Justice Beinish).

child abduction

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was signed in 1980. In 1991, Israel incorporated the Convention's provisions into Knesset legislation and empowered the Family Courts to enforce them. The goal of the Convention was to secure the prompt return of illegally abducted children to their countries of residence prior to their abduction.

We already find a claim of child abduction in the Bible, where Laban complains about Jacob's flight from Aram Naharaim together with his wives and children (i.e., Laban's daughters and grandchildren). Upon finding Jacob at Mt. Gilead, Laban cries: "What have you done, that you have cheated me, and carried away my daughters like captives of the sword. Why did you flee secretly, and cheat me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent thee away with mirth and songs, with timbrel and lyre? And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? Now you have done foolishly" (Gen. 31:26–28).

The Convention's point of departure is the provision that abduction is a violation of one of the parent's custodial rights, "under the law of the State in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or the retention" of the child (Article 3(a) of the Convention). Consequently, cardinal importance attaches to the determination of where the minor's habitual place of residence was, prior to the abduction. In one of the judgments given in the Jerusalem District Court, an halakhic principle was invoked in order to determine the minor's customary place of residence. The minor's parents were observant Jews. The father – then resident with his family in Oxford while writing his doctoral thesis – did not observe the Second Day of Festivals ordinarily observed by Jews living outside Israel. His adherence to the Israeli custom in this respect led the Court to infer that the locus of his life had remained in Israel. Consequently, the child's removal to Israel could not be regarded as abduction (f.a. 575/04 (Jer.) Anon. v. Anon.). In reaching this conclusion the Court adduced extensive halakhic material, from the Talmud (tb Pes. 51a, 52), Maimonides (Yad, Yom Tov 8:2), Shulḥan Arukh (oḤ 493:3), and the responsa (Radbaz, 4:73).

The Convention provides that there may be a justification for not returning the child if "it finds that the child objects to being returned and has attained an age and degree of maturity at which it is appropriate to take account of its views" (Article 13 of Convention, concluding phrase). One of the judgments includes a comprehensive discussion of how to determine whether the child is of an age and level that justifies taking account of his views. The Court noted that "in the State of Israel, as a Jewish state, consideration is accorded to the Jewish heritage, where the matter concerns consideration for the children's wishes and the age at which the law gives effect to the expression of their position" (f.a. (Jer) 621/04 Anon. v. Anon.). One of the sources upon which the decision was based was the mishnah in Niddah 5:6. This mishnah states that vows made by a girl aged 12 are considered efficacious, while between the ages of 11 and 12 the girl's level of intellectual maturity and comprehension are "examined." In the case of boys, his standing vis-à-vis vows is examined between the ages of 12 and 13, while after age 13 his vows too are fully efficacious, like those of a girl at age 12. The Babylonian Talmud ad loc. states that "the Holy One Blessed be He endowed woman with greater wisdom than the man," in light of the fact that the girl reaches maturity before the boy (cf. Torah Temimah, Gen. 2:22, §48). The District Court concluded that in the case in question, two of the four daughters were capable of expressing their position – which was against returning to the United States and in favor of staying in Israel. This position was adopted in consideration of their age, which is the age at which an undertaking for a vow is binding under Jewish Law. As such it is also an age at which the Court can form its impression that their wishes are of a nature that ought to be respected, pursuant to Article 13 of the Convention

The very enactment of the Hague Convention Law in Israel may be viewed as the endorsement of a fundamental principle of Jewish Law, namely, that the child is not an object to be moved from country to country, and abducted by one parent against the wishes of the second parent; but an independent legal entity, vested with both standing and rights (see also *Parent and Child).

[Moshe Drori (2nd ed.)]


D. Daube, Studies in Biblical Law (1947); ET, 5 (1953), 386–93; S. Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews (19682), 52, 126. add. bibliography: E. Rubinstein, Sakhar be-Venei Adam la-Asok be-Zenut – Sugiyyot be-Mishpat ha-Ẓibburi be-Yisrael (2003), 360–364; A. Ha-Cohen, "And There Shall You Be Sold to Your Enemies as Bondsman…" in: Parashat ha-Shavu'a, Ki-Tavo, vol. 179 (2004) – Ministry of Justice, Department of Jewish Law, and the Center for the Instruction and Research of Jewish Law, Sha'arei Mishpat College.


views updated May 18 2018

2. Abduction

  1. Balfour, David expecting inheritance, kidnapped by uncle. [Br. Lit.: Kidnapped ]
  2. Bertram, Henry kidnapped at age five; taken from Scotland. [Br. Lit.: Guy Mannering ]
  3. Bonnard, Sylvestre to save an orphan girl from cruel treatment, removes her from school by trickery and becomes her guardian. [Fr. Lit.: France The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard in Magill II, 196]
  4. Cephalus carried off in lusting Auroras chariot. [Rom. Myth.: Hall, 36]
  5. Conway, Hugh kidnapped to the lamasery called Shangri-la. [Br. Lit.: Lost Horizon ]
  6. Europa maiden carried off to Crete by Zeus in the form of a white bull. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 327]
  7. Gilda abducted by Duke of Mantuas courtiers. [Ital. Opera: Verdi, Rigoletto, Westerman, 299300]
  8. Helen carried off by Paris, thus precipitating Trojan war. [Gk. Lit.: Iliad, Hall, 147]
  9. Hylas boy beloved by Heracles is carried off by the nymphs after he draws water from their fountain. [Gk. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 476]
  10. Lyudmilla princess carried off on her wedding night by the wizard Chernomor. [Russ. Poetry: Ruslan and Lyudmilla in Haydn & Fuller, 653]
  11. Prisoner of Zenda, The King of Ruritania is held captive in castle of Zenda. [Br. Lit.: The Prisoner of Zenda ]
  12. Proserpina (Gk. Persephone ) whisked away by lustful Pluto in chariot. [Rom. Lit.: Metamorphoses; Fasti ; Art: Hall, 260]
  13. Raid of Ruthven James VI kidnapped for ten months by Protestant nobles (1582-1583). [Scot. Hist.: Grun, 258]
  14. Resurrection Men 1800s body snatchers; supplied cadavers for dissection. [Br. Hist.: Brewer Note-Book, 756]
  15. Sabine Women menfolk absent, Romans carry off women for wives. [Rom. Hist.: Brewer Dictionary, 948; Flem. Art: Rubens, Rape of the Sabine Women]
  16. virgins of Jabesh-gilead abducted by Israelites while dancing at Shiloh. [O.T.: Judges 21:1224]


views updated May 29 2018

abduction An inference process widely used in artificial intelligence, particularly in expert systems and rule-based systems. In diagnosis, for example, there may be a rule like “if measles then red spots” so that, when the symptom red spots occurs, we may use the rule in reverse to conclude that measles is present. However, unlike deduction, abduction is not logically sound because of inherent uncertainty that can lead to false conclusions – note that measles is not the only cause of red spots. Abduction is an example of a plausible-reasoning technique.


views updated Jun 27 2018

Abduction ★½ 1975 (R)

Exploitative account of the Patty Hearst kidnapping, loosely adapted from the Harrison James novel written before the kidnapping. A young woman from a wealthy capitalist family is kidnapped by black radicals and held for an unusual ransom. Oh, and she tangles with lesbians, too. 100m/C VHS . Judith-Marie Bergan, David Pendleton, Gregory Rozakis, Leif Erickson, Dorothy Malone, Lawrence Tierney; D: Joseph Zito.


views updated Jun 08 2018


The act of restraining another through the use or threat ofdeadly forceor through fraudulent persuasion. The requisite restraint generally requires that the abductor intend to prevent the liberation of the abductee. Some states require that the abductee be a minor or that the abductor intend to subject the abductee to prostitution or illicit sexual activity.




views updated Jun 08 2018

abduction Movement away from the midventral axis of the body. Compare ADDUCTION.