Experts share advice to Barron community as Jayme Closs transitions home

While Jayme Closs is now reunited with family, she still has a long road ahead of her both in her own recovery and in helping investigators build a case.

That reunification process is a very delicate one that needs to focus on Closs’ needs first.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald made it very clear Friday afternoon that his focus is letting Closs settle in with her family; the details investigators seek can wait.

“She was ripped from a safe place to... we don’t know what happened to her,” said Jane Straub, a JWRC Victim Assistance Specialist.

Curious, but cautious, Straub hasn’t worked directly on Closs’s case, but at the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, she has worked with many children who have endured trauma.

Straub said the reunification process is all about helping Closs recover, while also guiding her relatives about what to expect.

“It’s a process to have her understand that she is safe, she can be safe,” Straub said. “The people she’s safe with, the other thing for Jayme that makes it complicated is she’s not going back to her parents.”

For everyone, including psychologists surrounding Closs, Straub expects her mental and physical health are being put first and the criminal case second.

All investigators need now is enough to keep the suspect in custody.

“Trauma and trauma healing is a process,” Straub explained. “Her memory is going to be a process. There may be things - because it’s a traumatic event - she’s not able to verbalize.”

Straub continued, saying, “Even Elizabeth Smart had a situation where she had not told her parents everything that happened to her, because she wasn’t sure her parents could handle it.”

Smart is one of five abduction victims to write a book with the Department of Justice through its office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention. Straub, along with countless investigators and child advocates across the country, uses it as a resource in helping victims.

“For these young people who have gone through it, they are able to help us understand things,” Straub said.

The Barron County Sheriff reflected on some of those recommendations today.

He made a point during his late afternoon press conference that he would not be releasing any details today that may in anyway harm or traumatize Closs.

Experts at the JWRC made a number of recommendations to those in the Barron community Friday, too.

For one, they say to avoid assuming Closs wants a hug or wants to talk about how she's doing.

"Let her make choices giving her power over her own life, which was taken for 88 days," Straub said. 

Also, experts recommend when you see Closs in the grocery store at school or in the community in the coming days, weeks and months, make things seem as normal as possible for her.