The Horror of “The Girl in the Box” Helps Us Understand Attachment Behavior

The case called, “The girl in the box” provides excellent grounds for the attachment behavior often found in victims of trauma and sexual abuse. I wrote about this topic in yesterday’s article, Disturbing Dynamics of the Victim/Perpetrator Relationship.

The case of Colleen Stan is not well-known; possibly because it is so horrific that people just don’t want to know about it.

In 1977 Cameron Hooker, along with his young spouse, picked Colleen up when they spotted her hitchhiking. Colleen had not taken rides from other people because previous drivers appeared suspicious. Colleen felt that Cameron Hooker and his wife “looked safe.” *

Colleen immediately went through incredible suffering in the car when she was placed in a contraption, built by her kidnapper, that enclosed her head in a wood box. Colleen was taken to her kidnapper’s home and hung naked by her wrists from the basement ceiling. She was blindfolded, and left for days at a time in that position. She was frequently whipped, and Hooker and his wife sometimes had sex in the room at Colleen’s feet.

(Colleen Stan on her 20th birthday. She was kidnapped soon after this photo was taken)

Colleen was forced to relieve herself while hanging from the ceiling, and during the off chance that Cameron Hooker allowed her to come down, she had to use a bedpan right in front of him.

Eventually, Colleen was placed in a box that resembled a coffin and was kept inside the box underneath the bed that Cameron Hooker shared with his wife.

Locked inside with wrist and neck chains, Colleen was also blindfolded. She was not able to bathe, wash her hair, or brush her teeth for three months at a time, and she finally stopped having periods. Colleen’s torment with these people lasted seven horrific years, and she was kept inside the box during most of her captivity. 1

Hooker established total domination over his victim through fear and mind control, even to the point of allowing Colleen to eventually work outside the home. She also ended up taking care of Hooker’s children and Hooker eventually allowed Colleen to go on a trip to visit her family.

While home with her family, seemingly free to run, Colleen introduced her captor as her boyfriend, and photos taken during her visit depict a happy woman. **

Hooker kept Colleen under his control by telling her that a slave organization called “The Company” was watching her every move. Whenever she was out of the box for a period of time, Colleen had been given the impression that her life was continuously in danger, so she never told her family, or anyone else, about her imprisonment.

Shockingly to some, Hooker left Colleen overnight with her family, and picked her up the next day. She had twenty-four hours with her family, and although Colleen had the physical ability to call the police, her mind would not allow her to make that call.

colleen stan

(Colleen and Cameron. This photo was taken during her visit home)

It is unclear whether Colleen experienced fear of being killed when she visited her home or, if by that time, she was suffering from a psychological condition used as a survival technique in prisoners of war, victims of incest and in members of religious cults.

There are various ways to break the will of a victim. A sudden kidnapping is one. Other methods include threats of death, keeping the person confined in a dark area, or abusing the victim in dark areas, and limiting their communication with the outside world. Children who are being sexually abused, especially incest victims, often experience all of these components and this can cause the victim to form an “attachment conditioning.” This creates an atmosphere of coercion and instills mind control.

These attachment conditions generally necessitate a sudden shock or trauma, isolation, threats, and then the promise of a reward. There is also mental conditioning, such as the captor getting the victim to believe that he is the only one who can protect his victim. As horrific as the perpetrator may be, he can become the only living person who offers affection and human closeness.

We may never know exactly why Colleen Stan did not alert the police when she was left alone with her family, or why she wrote Cameron Hooker (what some have called), “love letters.”

Without deep therapy, even Colleen, may never know why she wrote them, because the subconscious mind is what drives human beings to behave in complex ways. There is a possibility that she formed an emotional attachment with Hooker. Colleen says the letters were a way to be treated better. 2

Attachment conditioning fits with my own childhood situation. Even though my father threatened to kill me and had raped me, I responded (at a very early age) to the sexual and emotional companionship, subsequently forming a dysfunctional bond with him. My mother was unable, and unwilling, to provide any kind of emotional relationship or tenderness towards me, so my father supplied what she could not.

Experts feel attachment conditioning may be an unconscious and unavoidable natural reflex to on-going trauma. This defense mechanism can affect both victim and perpetrator. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is associated with violence, and attachment conditioning is linked to deprivation and shameful experiences. 3

Jody Messler Davies points out, that even though the victim fears the abuser’s presence, she can simultaneously yearn for it. 4 During my years of healing, I finally realized this is what happened with me, and that I was, in a sense, having an ‘affair’ with my father. This consequently caused jealousy between my mother and me. The psychological dynamics of trauma, mixed with kidnapping or sexual acts spanning over several years with the sole provider, can bring painfully conflicting feelings for the victim.

(Janice Hooker)

In Colleen Stan’s case, Cameron Hooker’s wife Janice had been jealous of Colleen from the beginning. Yet she went along with the kidnapping, the brutality being carried out in her basement, and tolerated a human being living inside a box under her bed! However, Janice told Cameron that she did not want him to have sex with his victim. Eventually, he did anyway.

Janice Hooker allowed the torture, humiliation, and deprivation of a human being to take place in her home, but would not stand for her husband to have sex with his victim.


Luckily for Colleen Stan, Janice Hooker eventually told Colleen there was no slave organization –that it had all been a lie. Colleen Stan suddenly became free to leave. Some might think Janice Hooker grew a conscience, but I bet she told the truth out of jealousy. Janice probably wanted her husband to stop having sex with another woman.

Soon after Janice spilled her guts, Colleen called Cameron to tell him she was walking away from captivity, and Cameron Hooker cried.

This shows that the attachment theory can work on the perpetrator as well as the victim.

Amazingly, Colleen did not call the police after leaving the Hookers. She instead moved away without disclosing what Cameron and his wife had done to her for seven years. It was Janice Hooker who alerted police about the kidnapping and torture in her home.

Colleen most likely did not call the authorities because she had indeed formed an emotional bond with her captor, or she may have been experiencing so much guilt and humiliation over what she endured that Colleen could not bear to talk about it to anyone.

Given the horror of what she experienced, and that she was allowed to go home for an overnight visit, Colleen may also have feared that no one would believe her. Nevertheless, her reasons are her own and she may not even fully comprehend why she didn’t bring about the arrest of her perpetrators.

Hooker was convicted on ten counts of kidnapping and sexual abuse charges. He is serving consecutive terms of 104 years.

The state provided Janice Hooker with immunity in exchange for her testimony. This was an injustice to the people of The State of California and to all victims of abuse. Janice Hooker is just as guilty as her husband. Remember, she allowed another human being to be confined to a coffin-like box, and live under bed for seven years! 5

When the story first broke, people didn’t believe it, and they asked why Colleen did not “just run away.” 6 The human denial system tries to place such simplistic beliefs on incredibly complicated situations.

Many years ago, when the program American Justice first ran the Colleen Stan story, I became incensed when viewers were asked if they thought Stan had truly been a slave. I screamed at the television and furiously began writing letters to the producers of the show. I also expressed my rage on the American Justice message boards.

I was infuriated that the producers would ask such a question.

Later that day, I had a therapy session to find out the source of my rage. This was the day that I remembered, and came to terms with, the reality that I had natural needs as a child, and enjoyed driving attention away from my cold mother and onto myself. Once I allowed myself to accept these truths, the guilt which had previously been shielded by denial, was worked through in therapy.

When I re-watched the taped documentary on Colleen Stan, and again heard the narrator ask the question that had previously enraged me, I felt no anger.

My first reaction had come from my own shame. I had been angry with myself, not the interviewer or the producers. I had projected my rage onto others because of my unwarranted guilt. Colleen Stan might also have experienced an affectionate bond with her tormentor and it’s okay if she did because, like me, she had been forced into that situation.

A child who is being sexually raped on a continuous basis, by a parent or primary care-giver, experiences terror, and in the period immediately following this emotion, the child often submits to the acts. Afterwards, the victim and the perpetrator can reconcile with one another. Professor of psychiatry, Bessel van der Kolk, explains that when this is constantly reinforced in a vicious cycle, the reaction strengthens the victim/perpetrator bond, and the victim will emotionally dissociate into denial of the event.7

Colleen told CBS News that what shocked her the most after being released from her hell on earth, was how ungrateful people are. Colleen said, “I was shocked. People had nice jobs and houses and had plenty but they seemed so unhappy. They wanted more. I was coming out of a situation where I had nothing, and being exposed to these people who had so much and were unappreciative of it and complaining, I thought ‘My God why don’t they see how blessed they are?'”

Wise words.


* Cameron Hooker had no police record. He and his wife also had an infant child during the time that Colleen Stan was held prisoner in their home. Neighbors described Hooker as “friendly,” “really nice,” and “good tempered.” This shows that we never truly know what is happening behind closed doors. 8

**Note that Stan had taken a picture with the man who had kidnapped her, consistently raped and tortured her, and who kept her in a box under his bed for years, yet she smiled for the photo. This proves that no matter what a child or a person is going through, they can still look happy for a camera.


1. The Perfect Victim, Christine McGuire and Carla Norton, Dell Publishing, New York, 1988, page 46
2. The Perfect Victim, Christine McGuire and Carla Norton, Dell Publishing, New York, 1988, pages 9-35
3. The effects of trauma among kidnap victims in Sardinia, Italy., Favaro A, Degortes D, Colombo G, Santonastaso P. Psychol Med 2000 Jul; 30(4):975-80, and…Stockholm syndrome and child sexual abuse. Julich S. J Child Sex Abuse 2005; 14(3):107-29.
4. Dissociation, Repression, and Reality Testing in the Countertransference, Jody Messler Davies, Memories of Sexual Betrayal: Truth, Fantasy, Repression, and Dissociation, Jason Aronson Inc., Edited by Richard Gartner, Ph.D, pages 60
5. Arts and Entertainment, American Justice, The Girl in the Box, 2002
6. The Perfect Victim, Christine McGuire and Carla Norton, Dell Publishing, New York, 1988, page 45
7. The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma Re-enactment, Revictimization, and Masochism, Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Volume 12, Number 2, Pages 389-411,
June 1989
8. Arts and Entertainment, American Justice, The Girl in the Box, 2002
Colleen’s quote: cbsnews
This entry was posted in Child Abuse, child molestation, child sexual abuse, Crime, evil, rape and abuse and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to The Horror of “The Girl in the Box” Helps Us Understand Attachment Behavior

  1. Liam says:

    I’m deeply moved reading all these comments. I was sexually abused by a relative starting from the time I was 12-13 and although decades later I told a couple of those closest to me there has been no “closure” (God, I hate that word). I look back on my life in terms of before and after [the abuse]. And ever after isn’t getting any better. I’m now hopelessly addicted to prescription drugs, an addiction I subsidise occasionally via working as a male prostitute. (For some reason I prefer the term ‘rent boy’; it has that old world, cheeky, Cockney ring to it denoting mischief, if not fun. Which it certainly isn’t. Silly digression, I know, but there it is.) I’m sorry, this has little if anything to do with Colleen Stan, but thank you for your blog, which I’ve just come across. One question I have about the psychology of the victim/perpetrator relationship: the ‘guilt’ victims so often speak of – do any victims ever report (or maybe admit) that a part of them enjoys the abuse and what’s being done to them? I’m certainly not talking about abuse on a par such as poor Colleen Stan endured. Please let there be no misunderstanding there. However in my case, I felt guilt because as much as I loathed the perp and what he was doing to me (begging my parents to keep me away from him), a part of me enjoyed the physical sensation of WHAT he was doing. That’s SO hard to admit, even on an anonymous blog, but it’s true and I know it had something to do with why I never spoke out at the time. May as well throw that one out there, big though it is. I’m not sure if I should be this specific, but being brought to sexual climax at that age (especially having led a religious upbringing) filled me with a disgust, guilt and self-loathing I have obviously not recovered from. Even though intellectually – I know now – that I didn’t invite the abuse and it wasn’t my fault. Do you think this is what some victims of sexual abuse mean (in part) when they speak of guilt? I’m sure I can’t be completely alone in this.

    • Alethea says:

      Dear Liam,

      You are a brave soul. I am happy you found my blog.

      In answer to your question, you should read these three articles linked below. You are NOT alone. Myself, among countless other victims felt the same way you did. You do not need to be ashamed or feel guilty. You did nothing wrong. Your perpetrator holds all the shame and guilt. Your body merely responded to affection and touch. It was not YOU who responded, but just your body.

      WHO you truly are deep inside yourself did not respond, and was not a part of what happened. The physical feelings are NOT you –they are not who you truly are.

      • Alethea says:


        I was just going over my notes for my book manuscript and was pretty blown away at how many pages…page after page…of notes there are in my journals about self-punishment, self-sabotaging my joy, not allowing myself to feel joy…how much of that has been involved in my healing process.

        Liam, it just struck me that I think the prostitution might be your way of punishing yourself for having felt pleasure during the sexual abuse. It’s certainly a subconscious way of re-creating the abuse.


        • Liam says:

          Alethea – unfortunately I can’t respond fully just now (family around). But just want to say how touched I am that you, a total stranger, would take the time and effort to respond to what I wrote. You obviously have a very big heart. Such thoughtful introspection combined with compassion and intelligence are pretty rare qualities, I find (and such under-rated qualities too!). What you wrote really made my day. Will read the links and respond to your other queries if you like asap. 🙂 🙂

    • macolady says:

      Liam… I am not an abuse victim yet I can readily see and understand that against one’s will and what one’s mind thinks right or wrong…. one’s body can be stimulated for pleasure and it will respond. This fact was impressed upon me when my cousin was changing her baby brother’s diaper… we’re talking 1 yr old or less. In applying the powder she touched and stimulated the baby’s penis and he got an erection. It’s natural and understandable that you would indeed feel pleasure while being stimulated and all the while hating what was happening to you. Furthermore, if those experiences were your first sexual experiences with another person then it stands to follow that that would lay the groundwork for what you associate as pleasurable. So not only is it true that it wasn’t your fault that you were abused. It is also equally true that it wasn’t your fault that you felt pleasure. Please don’t punish yourself Liam. My heart aches for the boy that was and the man that is. There can be beauty from ashes. I hope you find it.

  2. boschsw says:

    just watched this disturbing story. Janice Hooker did nothing from compassion, she did it to save her skin! Why she is not behind bars i dont know, and to top it all she is ” helping vunerable people” in your dreams she is, she is helping herself to more of the same. Control and power over the vunerable, how do people who put the likes of Janice Hooker into these positions sleep at night, SHAME ON YOU !!!!!

  3. Rachel Myers says:

    Only in the past year of counseling and support group, have I managed to put the broken pieces of evidence and memory together–and piece together the picture that my dad had sexually abused me my entire childhood, even up through when I was in high school. I remember a miscarriage at 14, but no sex, and also blacking out when he pulled me out of the top bunk in the morning, before school, when I was in maybe 11th/ grade. Otherwise, I don’t have memory, except some confused fragments of “iffy” stuff. I’m starting to be okay with not remembering the really traumatic incidents. I mean, I HAVE figured out the truth now. But, on the other hand–Can we heal when we have repressed traumatic memories? Does healing necessarily involve remembering? And I guess it had to do with the fact, I recently figured out from support group–that my dad “romanticized” me. I was his favorite, of the six kids. He called me “Princess”. People always told me that I idealized him too much. As a result, I’ve only had two consensual sexual relationships in my whole life–most men are just not “good enough”. So… am guessing that my next step in healing involves dealing with the guilt that I was having an “affair” with my dad? Because I have that rage too–when people blame the victim. I am not even aware of the guilt, right now.

    • Alethea says:


      My apologies for taking so long to respond.

      “I’m starting to be okay with not remembering the really traumatic incidents. I mean, I HAVE figured out the truth now. But, on the other hand–Can we heal when we have repressed traumatic memories?”

      No. As long as repressed emotions are locked inside the mind and body, no one can truly heal completely. The emotions will always affect their life, usually their physical body.

      “Does healing necessarily involve remembering?”

      Yes, but a person never has to be re-traumatized. The therapy I do never re-traumatizes. It is gradual and gentle. It cannot hurt anyone. But allowing the past to remain in the present, by not facing it, does hurt a person.

      “So am guessing that my next step in healing involves dealing with the guilt that I was having an “affair” with my dad?”

      Everyone is different. No one can dictate the order of healing….not even the person healing themselves can dictate it. The subconscious mind is the one in charge of our lives. You could start healing work with someone and think you are ready, or want to be ready, to work on a certain area….only to be surprised when something else completely different comes up in a session.

      I hope this helps.

  4. intheknow says:

    Janice Hooker aka Lashley is trying to become a therapist. She worked in Colusa County and now works somewhere in Butte County. She is counseling vulnerable people. She never showed remorse. She is arrogant and certainly no victim. Complain to the Board of Behavioral Sciences because ethically she should not be counseling people. She never served time or had rehab.

    • Alethea says:

      If she is truly arrogant and has never accepted responsibility, then she has no right to council people. If you can find info. to verify that she has not transformed her life, and is indeed trying to become a therapist, and can supply an address for the correct Board of Sciences, then I will write.

      Thank you 🙂

      • drea0223 says:

        “Transformed her life”!!!
        You can’t be serious! How can a sexually sadistic person like Janice “transform her life” to a point where she should EVER be around vulnerable people. She belongs in prison. Everything Janice did was completely self serving both before and after the crimes she committed…which were rape, murder, kidnapping, and torture by the way!! So I won’t be needing evidence that Janice didn’t try to find help and “transform her life” I will be writing in.
        I was completely blown away by your comment. Seriously a person like this doesn’t transform, this person only manipulates silly people who buy into the bull.

        • Alethea says:


          What’s to be blown away about? I was merely asking the person who made a claim about Janice Hooker to show evidence and provide a place to file a formal complaint. I don’t just go around assuming and then taking action against someone unless I have some kind of reference to back up my concerns. I need something to go on –something other than a comment on my Blog by an anonymous person.


      • Patty says:

        while Janice is not blameless, she is as much a victim as Colleen, she was very young when she married Cameron and was subjected to physical abuse. perhaps she has reflected and took responsibility for her part in Colleens situation, not to blame Colleen because she did endure 7 years, but hitchhiking put her in that dangerous position and I assume she has learned from that lesson

  5. Rin says:

    I just watched the story of Colleen Stan on the ID channel. I was sickened when I thought about what this young lady endured. I am a Mother of 4, a Grandmother of 5 and was a teenager when all of this happened. I believe that Janice Hooker should NOT have been granted any type of immunity. What happened to the Hooker children? I believe she was not worthy of custody of them when she had them, nor any time in their lives. ~It is a tragedy and a miracle all in one awful happening. God Bless Colleen for her strength and hope and ‘Angels’ that kept her alive. What an INCREDIBLE witness of human strength!

  6. Name Withheld says:

    My father was abusive and thank goodness he is dead!. A problem, I don’t get along with my elder sister because she thinks my father is-was good and sides in defence of him. So I don’t talk to my sister. She seems to attack [hate] me whenever I say something about my father that isn’t positive. She seems screwed up and blames everyone except her-our father.

    • Alethea says:

      Dear anonymous,

      It appears your sister may very well have also been abused by your father, and her only defense against dealing with it inside herself, is to defend him. Try not to take it so personally. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with her. It is her self-protection that defends him. She wants to retain her “good” image of him so that she can exist in comfort….make that “comfortably numb.”

  7. mary says:

    Re alethea. as soon as he made such comments, i did not stay with him or touch him again. i thought of all my friends who had been sexually abused and how being with someone like that would be like a slap to their faces. Plus i know one day i want children and that is not someone i could have kids with or introduce my parents to. but i do remember in my mind going back and forth with denial and possible explanantions evev after i was gone. i had to move physically to a new city because even though my logical mind was in control, emotionally somehow i was attached. but i could not live with myself if i stayed. trust me, i am in therapy examining all my motivations..

  8. Alethea says:

    You’re right Serieve, she was put back in the box for a long time after that. I think he felt that he needed to regain control through fear and deprivation.

    What a horror.

  9. little nel says:

    Janice Hooker sounds like she had “attachment theory” issues also.

    • drea0223 says:

      I have a hard time believing Janice Hooker had attachment theory issues. After reading the whole story about what Janice and her husband did, I come to believe she not only watched the horrendous torture but actively participated in it.
      Now the crazy part to me is at least Cameron Hooker is being punished for his crimes. Janice got to walk away unscathed. She played along right next to her husband in the torture and murder.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I remember this story, is one of the most blood curdling stories that I have heard. But then there are a lot of blood curdling stories. It is hard to imagine that someone would stay given the chance to run away but yet I understand it.

  11. mary says:

    Overall though, i feel that my experiences have led to a positive result in that I have a greater understanding of this subject and its dynamics and even more compassion for victims of child abuse. Im glad i was forced to confront my issues. I know i would stand up for a child or an animal. and how blessed and lucky i am that my parents, while not perfect, did not physically or sexually abuse me. I know that if i could resist such a powerful and selfish urge for a man’s love which is stronger than any drug Ive tried and choose not to be around him or reward him with acceptance as soon as i knew or rather had an inkling, i know that means something. I know that it all left me with an almost unhealthy hatred towards pedophiles though, at least more so than before…and men too, although im trying to work through that. The most important thing i learned though is God’s love and how it can heal and do amazing things.

  12. mary says:

    I was typing alot and it may have accidentally sent. I hate admitting this. But as a 2o year old, I fell in “love” with a 47 year old man. He was kind, everyone loved him and i thought there was goodness in his eyes.He gave me affection and love and made me feel better than anyone in my life i had ever known even my parents at that point. Yet he may have very well molested his own daughters judging by many inappropriate sexualattitude n comments he had made about their bodies and the fact that they are both strippers and he was proud about that. That caused one of biggest mental breakdowns of my life and somehow triggered ptsd symptoms stemming from my teenage years i for the most partburied in my mind until then. The fact that someone who I loved so much could be what i despised the most, a child molestor. i felt so much shame and even heartbreak i couldve killed myself. i i did the right thing and stayed away but it made me question what kind of person i was and what i was made of.

    • Alethea says:

      Hi Mary. It’s healing to recognize these things and to express them.

      I have to wonder, did you stay with him, knowing that he may have sexually abused his girls? Or did you figure this out after you stopped seeing him? I think there is a huge distinction.

      If you stayed, with the knowledge that he was perverted towards them, then maybe that is something you might want to examine in yourself. Not in a judgmental way, but in a reflective way.

      Don’t be hard on yourself. Practice self-forgiveness and be good to yourself.

  13. mary says:

    I just want to thank you again for writing these informative articles.This hit a cord with me deeply for some reason. ive never been abused in the way Colleen was but i do understand the dynamic. Human closeness and affection can feel in a way intoxicating. It can blind you from the truth, and you deny and hide from it so that you can allow yourself to have it. That such an essential need for humans can be used in such ugly way just makes me question the nature of love. My parents never abused me, i know they love me inside but they did neglect to give me that sense of closeness which i know in my teenage and adult years i tried to find in my friends and men that led to me getting raped and used. I remember suffering from allkinds ofphysical symptoms stemming in psychological suffering and still trying to convince myself that they loved me, trying to convince myself that it was what i wanted and therefore not rape even though i had physically struggled and tried to defend myself at first and then surrendered.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Please read the book Forgotten Burial: A Restless Spirit’s Plea for Justice. It is connected to this horrible couple Cameron and Janice Hooker.

  15. Dissociation has been with me all my life and now I know. I have slowly been coming out of denial that what happened to me impacted my life.
    It impacted me to my soul. It ruined my family and all my relationships.
    I hope to God I can get my abuser out of my life tomorrow. He thinks he is coming here to my house and I am wanting to heal and he knows that. He thinks he is the all powerful and can change my mind.
    What a powerful story. Society needs to wake up to this. The war on the innocent needs to end.

    • sagmoon says:

      I think the lesson in this story is to NEVER DOUBT YOUR INNER VOICE. Colleen’s inner voice told her to “jump out the window, run and never look back” and she didn’t listen. I myself have been “saved” many times in my life because I listened to my inner voice.

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