She was 11 years old when she was kidnapped and kept locked up and sexually abused for 18 years. The victim recounts the terrible ordeal in her own words.
(A Stolen Life – A Memoir – by Jaycee Dugard) According to the US Department of Justice, about 2,185 children are reported missing everyday. Statistics also reveal that 203,900 children are victims of family abductions and 58,200 children are victims of non-family abductions.
Research also indicates that one of five girls and one of 10 boys will be sexually abused before they reach adulthood.
Jaycee Lee Dugard was 11 years old when she was kidnapped by Phillip Garrido on June 10, 1991. Jaycee was walking to a bus stop from school when she was abducted.
In her book “A Stolen Life”, Jaycee remembered that she seemed to have been zapped by a stun gun and was rendered physically incapable of bodily movement.
For the next 18 years, Garrido kept her locked up in his house and sexually abused her. This is the only book on child abduction that I have read and I really hope I do not have to read another.
The abduction of Jaycee Dugard has become such a celebrated case in the United States that it triggered public discussion of many young victims who have been kidnapped and have yet to be rescued.
The fact that Jaycee, by a stroke of luck and perhaps even by divine aid, was rescued by the authorities have made parents all over the world to think of their own children.
On June 2, last year Garrido was sentenced to 431 years’ jail for his heinous crime. His wife Nancy who was his accomplice received 36 years’ imprisonment.
On Aug 26, 2009 when the identity of Jaycee Dugard was established by the authorities, she was 29 years old and had bore two daughters, 15 and 11, fathered by Garrido.
Bleak human landscape
“A Stolen Life” simply cannot be read by any parent who has children of their own and not be personally traumatised to some small degree.
Parents who have lost their children to kidnappers and other strangers with evil intentions live in purgatory every day for the rest of their lives on earth.
This story told by Jaycee in her own words lifts the enormous curtain that covers the circumstances and uncover the bleak human landscape concerning the fate of many other young children who are still missing in America.
Jaycee’s kidnapper, Phillip Garrido, is a convicted sexual offender who was diagnosed by medical authorities as a “sexual deviant and drug abuser”.
Her rescue in 2009 was sparked off by Jaycee and her children’s suspicious behaviour in a parole office in which Garrido had an appointment.
Thinking that the young children would divert the authorities’ attention from his personal circumstances, Garrido took a gamble and lost.
Fortunately for Jaycee, her case has a happy ending. She was reunited with her mother who had never given up hope of seeing her daughter again.
With the help of psychiatrists and caring individuals, Jaycee gradually regained control of her life and began life anew. It is a story of hope, redemption and ultimately joy for the Dugard family.
But the years from the time she was abducted to the time Jaycee was rescued are filled with pain, misery and intense psychological trauma.
Imagine a very young girl being sexually abused systemically over a span of almost two decades. The only way a young child could survive was to switch to a mental mode whereby she embraced her then unalterable circumstances. Consequently, she almost totally lost track of her past identity.
When she was asked by investigators about her real name, Jaycee was so traumatised that she couldn’t bring herself to say it. She had to write down her name.
This simple act of revealing her real name was so difficult that it was clear that as a child and later as an adult, Jaycee was psychologically indoctrinated to accept her false identity of being part of the Garrido family.
The law eventually found out that Garrido was mentally unstable because of drug abuse and was also experiencing hallucinations of communicating with “demon angels”.
“A Stolen Life” can be seen as an attempt by Jaycee Dugard to regain control of the rest of her life by talking frankly and honestly about what had happened to her.
The immensely painful missing years have probably left some deep psychological scars in Jaycee. It is with a sense of relief that by following the broken trails of her abduction years, the reader will come to realise that Jaycee personally has more courage than she was aware of.
It is shocking for any adult to come face to face with some of the most horrendous tales of sexual abuse ever told by a former abducted young victim.
Jaycee Dugard has made clear that her intention to reveal her past circumstances is to help other survivors of sexual abuse. In the wake of her rescue and the slow road to full recovery, Jaycee Dugard founded JAYC (Just Ask Yourself to Care) to help families of abducted victims.
This is a book that needs to be read by parents who care for their children. The message is clear: do not take your children’s safety for granted.