NewsHillsborough County


Woman kidnapped and held captive by Somali pirates dedicated to helping trauma survivors

She receives treatment at a Tampa-based nonprofit
Posted at 9:54 PM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 23:28:16-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- A woman who was kidnapped and held captive by Somali land pirates continues to share her story to help other trauma survivors.

"It was the single most terrifying experience, a long, drawn-out, terrifying traumatic experience of my life," said Jessica Buchanan.

On October 25, 2011, Jessica Buchanan and a colleague were both kidnapped at gunpoint by Somali land pirates and held for ransom. She remained in a desert for 93 days.

"We were taken at gunpoint. Our car was taken over and we were driven out to the desert," she recalled.

Buchanan was working as a humanitarian aid worker when she was kidnapped.

During her captivity, she was terrorized by her captors and her health deteriorated. She was given a single daily meal and suffered through extreme heat and cold.

"They made us walk out into open desert and then conducted a mock execution. I thought I was going to die on several occasions," said Buchanan.

In January of 2012, Navy Seals stormed the compound, freed Buchanan and killed the people who tormented her.

"I thought we were being kidnapped by another group because that was always a fear. It was always a threat and it wasn't until I heard a young American man's voice say my name and I realized I had maybe survived this thing. I might actually get to go home and see my husband and my family," she said.

Buchanan suffered nightmares, panic attacks, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Buchanan has received treatment at ART International, a Tampa-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). The therapy has also been used with veterans. It helps people reframe troubling memories and relieve the physical and emotional symptoms of trauma.

"Since going through ART, I don't have that physical response anymore. I can talk about it even in details, it doesn't spin me off into that place of anxiety anymore because the treatment has been so effective for me," Buchanan.

"What ART does, it helps your brain get back in alignment so you can have those memories, but your brain understands that you're not there anymore," she added.

She will speak at Brave B.A.S.H., an annual gala for ART International. This year's Brave B.A.S.H. will take place both in-person and virtually on October 24.

Tickets for both experiences are available at:

The event will be emceed by Rebekah Gregory, a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing, who has also found help with her trauma through ART.

Buchanan understands many people may be dealing with trauma or feel anxious during the COVID-19 pandemic. She continues to share her story to help others suffering from trauma.

"I hope people understand that they don't need to be ashamed because I think a lot of times there's a stigma attached to small trauma or big trauma."

"Please reach out. There's help available," she added.