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Taken at 14, Abigail Hernandez speaks publicly for first time about her captivity

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 07. 2018 1:45PM
Abigail Hernandez, who was taken captive by Nathaniel Kibby in October 2013 and held for nine months, will tell her story for the first time Friday on ABC's 20/20. 

Nearly five years after being kidnapped at gunpoint while walking home from high school, Abigail Hernandez is speaking publicly for the first time about the physical torture she suffered in captivity and the emotional damage that followed.

Hernandez was a 14-year-old freshman at Kennett High School, in North Conway, when she disappeared in October 2013, not to return home until her captor released her nine months later.

During that time, Nathaniel Kibby, of Gorham, who pleaded guilty to kidnapping, aggravated felonious sexual assault, and other crimes, forced Hernandez to wear a shock collar and call him “master,” she told ABC News reporter Deborah Roberts.

An hour-long segment, including interviews with Hernandez, her mother, Union Leader Executive Editor Trent Spiner, and other people involved in the case will air Friday on ABC’s “20/20.”

“I think she very, very strongly wanted to finally speak out and set the record straight because there has been a lot of conjecture in the community about what happened,” Roberts said in an interview.

“I didn’t push her too much about it, but what we knew is that there were certain people in the community who scoffed at her story and doubted her story,” she said. “There were high school kids who, according to Abby’s friends, questioned what happened.”

Roberts said she was struck by Hernandez’s recounting of the psychological battle that played out, with Kibby attempting to convince her that she couldn’t be saved and Hernandez trying to persuade him to let her go.

Kibby eventually released Hernandez after Lauren Munday, who went on a date with Kibby and slept in his arms not knowing he was holding a teenage girl captive, was caught using counterfeit bills he gave her. Her testimony would have been a key piece of evidence had Kibby gone to trial.

ABC also interviewed Munday for the “20/20” piece.

“It’s really almost chilling when you think about it — these two young women have very different encounters with this guy,” Roberts said. It was interesting to think that “this man was living a bizarre almost-double life.”

While Hernandez, who now lives in Maine and is a new mother, was initially hesitant to speak about her kidnapping, she eventually decided to hold back very little in her telling, Roberts said.

The reporter believes Hernandez’s story is different than other similar tragedies — like the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, who was also 14 when she was held and abused for nine months — that have captured the nation’s attention and been featured on tell-all programs like “20/20.”

“What sets this story apart is you have a young woman who survived an awful ordeal, who never really had a chance to talk about it, who endured victim shaming and victim blaming,” Roberts said, adding “I think Abby Hernandez is a heroine. To me, she is a shining example of what it is to endure difficulty and to come out feeling whole, feeling forgiving.”


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