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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

How To Escape From A Kidnapping

by Ralph December 18, 2017
Man Kidnapped

Being kidnapped is often a life or death situation. When you are taken, you are at the mercy of your attacker. That is unless you escape. What I am about to share with you can be extremely dangerous. It is best not to try these methods of escape outside of the watchful eye of a trained professional.

No matter if you have been taken captive in your own home or stolen off the street, the information below will help you to escape unlawful detainment. It is important to remind readers that this information is only intended to be used to escape from unlawful acts of kidnapping and not from lawful custody.

Why Are You Being Kidnapped?

This is not about blaming the victim, but rather a question that is meant to have you think a little bit about your risk of harm. If you can figure out why you have been targeted, you will have a better idea as to the general motivation and mindset of your assailant.

You never want to be taken, but depending on why you are being targeted, there might be reason enough to never stop fighting. Your risk of bodily harm or successful release will determine certain key considerations for how you should act.

1. Financial Ransom Demands

If you are very financially well off, appear to be wealthy, or associate yourself with wealthy entities, there is a good chance that you are only being held until such time as your ransom can be delivered.

You may find that your captors do not have an interest in merely turning you over after getting the money, but there are many professional kidnappers (mainly in countries outside of the USA) who run kidnapping as a business. They have a vested interest in letting you go unharmed once the money is paid, as to incentivize the next person to pay.

Being kidnapped for money is the safest that you can be, however, you will still need to worry about your rescue. Being rescued can be extremely dangerous if you resist or do not follow directions.

2. Political Prisoner

There is an upside and a downside to being a political prisoner. The upside is that you have a better chance of a concerted effort being made to find you and save you. If the government cares about you (even if their only worry is how it would make them look if you died), they may mobilize a military force to retrieve you.

The downside to being a political prisoner is that you are unlikely to be held for a monetary ransom. More often your captors will have political demands, perhaps even wanting detained members of their organization set free in exchange for your freedom.

Political requests have a significantly lower acquiescence rate than financial ransoms. Plus the United States has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists. That means that even if someone like a journalist is taken as a political prisoner, their family will be prevented from paying the ransom.

Besides all of this, political prisoners are the most likely to die while taken hostage. This is because political prisoners have political capital in the way of publicity. A public death for prisoners of politically motivated groups is very common in the era of terrorism.

3. Human Trafficking

People being taken to be sold at a later date is still a concern across the world. In fact, not even developed nations are exempt from this type of kidnapping. Recently, a high profile case involving a British model held captive for days in Italy showed how the internet has set up a demand and supply chain for human trafficking.

This is still a concern in the modern world. In fact, we now know that underground organizations target individuals specifically for this purpose. Though it is claimed that Chloe Ayling (the UK model) was released due to the moral guidelines of the human trafficking ring, that is not something that can be relied upon.

When you are dealing with human traffickers you have to use extreme caution, and do all you can not be caught. Your future, based on this type of kidnapping, is very bleak. There is no use that you have if you cannot be sold. The best you can hope for is that you are ransomed to your family if you are not sold as a slave. Death is more likely for people that operate in this world.

Escaping Restraints

Girl Escaping Being Tied Up

During home invasions when your home security has failed you, or after a kidnapper has grabbed you off the street, they are going to try to subdue you. The go to methods of restraining a kidnap victim are listed below, along with the ways to escape.

It is important to use extreme caution while practicing these methods of escape. Throughout the history of handcuffs and restraints, issues with neuropathy have plagued those whose bindings were too tight. You may also want to protect your wrists, as these methods can create a lot of pressure and friction.

1. Handcuffs

Handcuffs are by far the most difficult type of restraints to get out of, which is not to say they are all that formidable. Mainly your concern is having access to the proper materials. You can buy handcuff keys or even invest in handcuff key aglets (shoelace caps).

You can also buy handcuff shims or use rings that conceal shims. The use of a shim is a little less explanatory than using actual handcuff keys, but it is not all that difficult. All you need to do is slip the thin metal shim between the teeth of the single strand and the locking pawl. The metal barrier between these two part of the cuffs will allow the handcuffs to be pulled open.

Without either a shim or a pre-made key, you can still pick the lock. You will need a thick piece of metal that can be bent to a 90-degree angle, and that will fit in the keyway. Turn the bent piece of metal in the keyway, and if it is strong enough, you will depress the locking pawl and release the teeth of the handcuffs. But be sure that the double lock is disengaged first.

If the handcuffs have a double locking mechanism, be sure to insert a pin shaped length of metal into the double locking hole. With this double lock depressed, the locking pawl can now move when you pick the keyway of the lock.

In case none of that made any sense to you be sure to take a look at the history of handcuffs article I wrote, linked to above.

2. Ropes

The best part of a kidnapper using ropes is that very few people are proficient with knot tying and rope work. Their lack of knowledge is your advantage. The first thing you need to do to escape rope restraints is present your hand properly.

The appearance of compliance is your best weapon. Act like you are not resisting as you present your hands to be tied. Make two fists. Point your knuckles toward the kidnapper. Press your fingers together. Make sure to point your knuckles up toward your kidnapper’s eyes to conceal the gap you have made between your arms.

The closer you can keep your fists to your stomach, the wider you can keep your gap. When you are alone, twist your wrists back and forth (one away and one toward your chest). This will widen the gap further. Then slip lengths of the rope off your hands. Repeat until you can remove the ropes entirely.

3. Duct Tape

Opposite of how you want your elbows as far as possible with rope, with duct tape you are looking to keep your elbows close together (As close as you can without raising suspicion). This makes sure that the duct tape is nice and tight. That tightness will be your means of escape.

Once the duct tape is on, raise your hands over your head and slam them down, bringing your elbows to your ribs. You really need to swing hard, but that pressure will be enough to overwhelm the duct tape.

To escape from duct tape wrapped around your legs, place your palms together (like you would in prayer). Then shove your fingers between the duct tape as hard and fast as you can. This forces your legs to widen and will break the tape.

If your wrists are taped to the arms of a chair, you want to pull your fists toward your chest. Remember to use strong and fast movements, but it is really that easy to get out of duct tape. Though it might demoralize you to be tied up in this way, escape is not that difficult.

4. Zip Ties

You can escape zip ties similar to how you would escape duct tape. However, you can tighten your zip ties, and should to increase success. But to add a little bit of flavor to this section, I will describe how to escape when you are zip tied behind your back.

Make sure that the zip ties are as tight as possible. Lift your arms up away from your torso. Bring your hips back like you are bending over. Thrust your hips as you pull your wrists back toward your torso, and the zip ties will break.

For something like Flexicuffs or more formidable zip ties that are intended to be used as restraints, you might need to use something like parachute cord. This can be tied on your person at all times (accessible but hidden), or even used to replace your shoelaces (which you might not have if you are detained in your home or your shoes are taken).

Loop the parachute cord through the plastic. Make slip knots on both ends of the cord and place them around your toes. Then move your legs as if pedaling an imaginary bicycle. This will create a sawing action with the hardy cord, and slice through the plastic restraints.

General Advice: Kidnapping Escape and Best Practices

Woman Pepper Spraying Attacker

The best time to escape from your assailants is before you are fully restrained or taken to another location. You have the most control and the best chance of a safe and successful escape when you are not restrained or confined.

Most of this information is pertaining to being taken while in public. If you are kidnapped within your own home, all you need to do is escape your restraints and you will know the best way to escape the home and call for help.

But here are some tips for the times where you are targeted out in the world at large:

1. Raise Alarm

If you cannot get away because the criminals are too powerful, or for some other reason, verbal resistance is still extremely helpful. You can get the attention of bystanders who may intervene and give you the force, distraction, etc., needed to escape.

One of the first things they teach you in self-defense courses is to shout, “fire”. This is widely believed to attract more helpful attention than shouting “help” or other such words. The idea is that people are more willing to help if there is a fire, and more likely to ignore requests for help. Often thought to be due to the overuse of cries for help (ala the boy who cried wolf), where as it is illegal to yell fire, so the cry is likely to be authentic.

Even if none of this resistance ends in you successfully evading the next step in the kidnapping, it is good for others to potentially know you were taken against your will. If you are living alone, it might be some time before anyone makes a report.

Though there is no official wait time such as 24, 48, or 72 hours to wait before filing a missing person’s report with the police, there is a need for someone to file the report. Strangers are great to raise the type of awareness of your abduction as they can alert the relevant parties as soon as possible.

2. Fight Back

Raising alarm might not be enough to discourage a kidnapper, especially if you are in a remote enough location where the assailant does not believe there is a probable chance of third party intervention. In this case, the best course of action is to fight back. If you are taken into a car, your chances of living through this ordeal decrease exponentially. So fight like your life depends on it. Because it likely does.

Eyes, genital, and throat are the go-to targets for untrained victims of assault. They are the most likely places to be able to hit with no skill and still deal a considerable amount of damage to your attacker. However, elbowing someone repeatedly in the stomach, and delivering mule kicks (kicks aimed behind you from as standing position) to their legs, can be effective as well.

If alternating between your methods of offensive fighting are not slowing your attacker (and slowing should indicate that you need to fight harder as the criminal weakens), you can still fight back. Going limp makes the task of getting you into a vehicle much more difficult, as it is significantly harder to drag or carry dead weight.

Even physically smaller victims have a chance of wearing out their attacker by going limp. Attempting to exhaust your attacker is a perfect way to not only discourage them from seeing the kidnapping through. But this is also a way to tire them so that you can begin physically fighting with them again (which may be more effective now that they have expended more energy).

3. Running Away

No matter how you escape, getting away clean is going to require you to do a bit of running. And there are some tips that make running away a more effective means of escaping a kidnapping.

Chances the kidnapper is initially looking to try to move you into a vehicle of some kind. The first step during an escape is to try and figure out which car is theirs. It may be obvious, or it may not be. If there are many cars around, and you cannot tell which belongs to your aggressor, continuing to raise alarm is likely to get the attention of some of the car owners.

When you know the kidnapper’s vehicle, it is best to make an effort to run in the opposite way that it is facing. That way, if the kidnapper attempts to pursue you in their vehicle, they will be forced to lose time turning around. If you are escaping from the initial attempt or from being held captive, it is still best to run toward signs of people.

You want to get to somewhere that will allow you to contact the authorities. If you have access to a cell phone, you can call the police, but it is best to find immediate help that can protect you in the event that the kidnapper comes after you. Just being around people will discourage the kidnapper from trying anything else.

4. Escaping in Transit

As soon as you get into the car, your chances of survival drop dramatically, but that does not mean you should resign yourself to thinking it is over. Instead, think of this as motivation. You do not want to get to the secondary location, so you may need to do some desperate things.

There is a good chance you will be thrown into the trunk of a car. (If you are a larger person, while someone is attempting to move you into the trunk, this is another great time to resist). Once you are in the trunk, you could be restrained (take a look at the Escaping Restraints section). But even if you cannot get out of your bindings, you should still be able to try and escape the trunk.

Most trunks have a release lever for this exact reason. In newer cars, it will even glow so that you can see it in the dark. If you cannot use the emergency handle to open the trunk, kick at the right back or left back side the trunk. You are attempting to kick out the tail lights so that you can fit an appendage through the opening. Damaging the tail light or reaching through it will alert other drivers and police to the issue.

When you are in the car with your kidnapper, and not in the trunk, it is much harder to move around unnoticed. You will have to act more desperately. You can attempt to jam the ignition (using some material that will crowd the keyway so the proper key cannot be inserted) or attempt to pull the keys out (which will lock the steering wheel while the car is moving, and likely cause a crash). But if you can, jumping out and trying to roll is worth the risk.

It is important to roll when you leave the car. You do not want your momentum to be exerted into a single thud. Continued movement after leaving a moving car will dispel the more dangerous force of simply landing on concrete. Try to avoid other cars, as you will still be in danger of getting hit while on the road. Look for an opening when there is not a car whose path you are jumping into.

5. Leave a Trail

There will be several times while being transported that it is ideal to leave something behind. Jewelry, pieces of clothing, or anything that would raise suspicion or be identifiable as yours should be left for people to find. The hope is that investigators are tipped off as to your route.

Public places like gas stations, parks, residential neighborhoods, etc., are a great place to leave your clues. Just dropping something on the road might be helpful, if it is large enough to be seen, but it will need to be remarkable.

The most important part about leaving a trail is being smart with your placement and selection of clues. Don’t be like Hansel and Gretel leaving bread crumbs behind, which were eaten by birds so the trail was lost. Be noticeable and recognizable with your trail.

If an item is noticeable, it still needs to be recognizable in order for anyone to associate it with you. And if it can be associated with you, people need to be able to find it. Do what you can, and try your best.

6. Keep a Mental Record

If you have a great memory, you might be able to remember the turns the car takes and plan a way to get back. If you know the area you are in, you might even be able to get some idea of your location. All of which will help you to escape or give information to authorities.

There are all types of information that you kidnapper could unwittingly be giving you. They might mention things about phones or making calls. This could tell you about the means of calling for help.

Where new resources come from also gives away a lot. Does the fast food have a recognizable logo? How long it takes for meals to be prepared? What does the water tastes like? If bottled water says Kirkland or Safeway, this might give you an indication of the store chains nearest your location.

Beyond indications of your location, a mental record is good for finding patterns with the routines of your captors. You need to know when your openings are. When you are most able to work without being interrupted or escape without being stopped. For that, you need to make note of the kidnapper’s schedule.

7. Submit Smartly

Without developing Stockholm Syndrome it is important to relate to one or more of your captors. The more they see you as a human being, the less willing they will be to harm you. Of course, there might be no way to win the hearts and minds of psychopaths, but despite what you might think, not every kidnapper is beyond emotional appeals.

But if such appeals to a kidnapper’s better nature are fruitless, you may be able to appeal they’re their laziness. Being accommodating to routines and unimportant requests can make you appear as submissive and controllable. Such behavior can lull your captor into a false sense of security. When they let their guard down, that is when you can strike.

8. Keep Your Wits About You

Though things may seem hopeless, people make mistakes. They get careless or sometimes you just get lucky. The best way to capitalize on an error is to have your mind right. You do not want to identify with your captor, lose your sanity, or lose your will to fight.

Opportunities for escape are only useful if you are capable of capitalizing on them. That means that you need to keep your spirits up and your mind focused. Tasks, such as keeping a mental record should sharpen the mind. Finding a way to exercise in your enclosure will benefit your body, which will then, in turn, help your mental state.

Do not give in to your situation. Do not let yourself become hopeless. Sanity may be hard to keep hold of if you are isolated or kept in conditions that speed up mental deterioration. Try to stave off fear and mental lethargy with determination towards your successful escape.

All of this will come in handy if you cannot escape your kidnappers, but your other efforts have led to your discovery. When the police arrive at the location, perhaps even due to an unrelated investigation, you will need your sanity in order to comply. And compliance is necessary, as you are likely to be treated as a suspect by the intervening authorities. Do not become aggravated at this insinuation. Stay calm and comply. The truth will come out eventually, but while the police are making arrests, all you can do is survive.


Though there may be a lot of kidnappings and missing persons, statistically speaking, not all are done under duress. Kidnappings are commonly the result of a biological parent absconding with their child. And missing persons cases can be as simple as someone not wanting to be found. Still, kidnappings can have real consequences.

Be sure you have some idea as to why you were targeted. Understanding why you were taken can give you a lot of insight as to how you will be treated, and how desperately you might need to escape. Knowing how to get out of restraints is important to escape any type of unlawful detainment or kidnapping. From there, just follow some basic advice.

It will not be easy, but don’t give up. Keep fighting. Keep trying to escape. Keep living.

Category: Crime, How To's, Safety & Security

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