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August 14, 2013

California teen faces long recovery after rescue

SAN DIEGO — A 16-year-old girl who was rescued during an FBI shootout with her captor in the Idaho wilderness faces a long recovery, but support from family and friends can help her lead a happy, productive life, therapists said Tuesday.

Along with being abducted, Hannah Anderson lost her mother and 8-year-old brother, who were found dead after a fire at the home of her abductor. Hannah didn’t learn about the deaths until she was rescued on Saturday.

Therapists said her first step will be grieving those losses.

Hannah’s father told at least two people after the harrowing rescue that he planned to move with Hannah to Tennessee, where he recently moved.

The idea met resistance from some people who know the girl.

“She has a huge circle of friends, and she’s very outgoing and sociable,” said Dawn McNabb, whose son is a friend of Hannah. “I think it would be completely destructive ... She would be in a foreign place.”

She said Hannah had texted her son, Alan MacNabb, on Monday and Tuesday as she settles in with her maternal grandparents in Santee, an east San Diego suburb.

Moving would be a father’s “very normal reaction,” said Jessica Donohue-Dioh, a social work instructor at Xavier University in Cincinnati. She cautioned, however, that it shouldn’t be an attempt to bury the past.

“If something happened to my kids, I could understand wanting to remove my kids from that environment. It’s natural,” she said.

Shannon Traore, a family advocacy specialist at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said there were arguments for and against moving but it was important to consider the child’s wishes and support network.

“Certainly a fresh start is often something victims want and need,” Traore said.

Christopher Saincome, Hannah’s grandfather, said he has urged his son-in-law to have her stay in San Diego.

“I think she needs to be here with friends,” Saincome said.

Brett Anderson said Monday that his daughter suffered “a tremendous, horrific ordeal” and faced a slow recovery.

He asked for privacy and declined to answer questions after making a brief statement outside San Diego County Sheriff’s Department headquarters, which served as a command post during the massive 6-day search that spanned much of the West and parts of Canada and Mexico.

Donohue-Dioh said Hannah’s support network — whether family, friends or a church group — will be crucial to her recovery.

“The prospects for a happy, productive life depends on those things,” she said.

Therapists said the pace of Hannah’s recovery will depend partly on her degree of self-confidence before her ordeal.

Counselors will focus on acknowledging her trauma but not letting it control decisions, Donohue-Dioh said. It may involve confronting fears about a relationship or identifying what might trigger flashbacks.

Anderson is a gymnast at El Capitan High School in suburban Lakeside, where she participated in an advanced dance class. The incoming junior recently celebrated a birthday with about two dozen friends at a San Diego cabaret bar.

Her abductor, James Lee DiMaggio, 40, was like an uncle to her and her brother. He was close to their parents for nearly two decades.

A tip from horseback riders led rescuers to the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, a roadless 3,600-square-mile preserve in the heart of Idaho.

DiMaggio fired his rifle once or twice with Hannah nearby, and is believed to have shot first, authorities said.

Sheriff’s Capt. Duncan Fraser said last week that investigators believe DiMaggio may have had an “unusual infatuation” with the girl.

DiMaggio is suspected of killing Christina Anderson, 44, and Ethan Anderson, 8, and abandoning them on Aug. 4 in his burning, rural home east of San Diego.


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