On tonight’s rebroadcast of ABC’s 20/20, kidnapping survivor Abby Hernandez opens up about what it was like to be kidnapped and how she survived and found hope in captivity.
In the episode, which originally aired in September 2018, ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts interviews Hernandez about her experience in captivity. In the interview, Hernandez opens up about the details including what it was like being held for months in captivity by Nathaniel Kibby, who forced her to wear a shock collar and kept her prisoner inside a shipping container.
Hernandez also discusses the psychological strategies she used in order to stay alive, including bonding with her kidnapper.
Her advice to others who have survived extreme trauma has to do with hope.
“Just don’t lose hope…” she said on 20/20. “Even when you feel like you’ve lost everything, hope is something that nobody can take away from you. And just keep that. And it’ll keep you going.”
Hernandez Reveals How She Never Lost Hope
Hernandez was kidnapped and hidden just 30 miles north of her hometown when she was just 14 years old on October 9, 2013.
For months, her family, investigators, and the community were mystified by what had happened to her, as she had seemingly vanished without a trace while walking home from school where she had just started her freshman year.
Hernandez opened up for the first time five years after she was kidnapped, and she explained that her adrenaline and survival instincts kicked in as soon as she realized she was being abducted.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Okay, I got to work with this guy,'” she said on ABC’s 20/20. “I said, ‘I don’t judge you for this. If you let me go, I won’t tell anybody about this.'”
Unfortunately, her initial attempts of escape were dashed when Kibby drove her to his property where she spend nearly nine months in a storage container, suffering daily abuse.
Hernandez told 20/20 that she kept hope alive simply by praying for strength.
“I remember I never said ‘amen’ in my mind,” she revealed. “I never wanted to end my prayers because I didn’t want God to leave me. I just really wanted to live.”
Hernandez Slowly Built Up Trust With Her Kidnapper
In the episode, Hernandez revealed that she continually worked to build up trust with Kibby in hopes that she would be able to escape.
Eventually, Hernandez built up enough trust with Kibby that he began bringing her books to read, and when she found a name in a cookbook he had given her, she asked, “Who’s Nate Kibby?” He took a breath and responded, “How do you know my name?”
In July 2014, nine months after she was captured, Hernandez was released by Kibby because he feared police were going to visit his home due to a counterfeiting investigation.
Hernandez promised Kibby she would not reveal his identity to anyone, then he drove her back to where he had abducted her and let her go. She was able to walk back to her mother’s home.
“I remember looking up and laughing, just being so happy,” Hernandez said in the 20/20 episode. “Oh my God, this actually happened. I’m a free person. I never thought it would happen to me, but I’m free.”
Just a week later, police arrested Nate Kibby for kidnapping. He pleaded guilty to seven felony counts including kidnapping and sexual assault and was sentenced to 45 to 90 years in prison.