“You just do what you have to do to survive.”
These are the words of Jaycee Dugard, who shared the story of her 18 years in captivity with Diane Sawyer on ABC Sunday night.
In 1991, 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped by Phillip Garrido and his wife, Nancy, on her way to school. For the next 18 years, she would endure sexual and emotional abuse.
The Garridos kept Dugard in a backyard shed that authorities wouldn’t search. Only a child, Dugard, who was handcuffed initially, said she stopped herself from crying. “I didn’t really want to, because then you can’t wipe them away, you know?” she said.
She told Sawyer she didn’t have a toothbrush or a bathroom. “I was so lonely. I felt so alone,” she said.
Shortly after her kidnapping, Garrido raped Dugard. She had never learned about the mechanics of sex, only a general idea from television. She wrote about a detailed account of the first rape in her memoir, “A Stolen Life,” to help other victims of sexual abuse, she said. “Why not look at it? You know, stare it down until it can’t scare you anymore,” she told Sawyer.
Of all of the parts of her captivity, Dugard said she remembers the sounds of her backyard prison the best. “That lock [on the shed door.] Hearing the lock ... for some reason that and the bed squeal. It was a squeaky bed,” she said. “I guess the noise, the sound. It’s weird what sticks in your head.”
Dugard said the Garridos had “twisted minds.” Phillip and Nancy Garrido would manipulate Dugard, giving her pet kittens, only to take them away. “She means more to me than my own life,” Dugard wrote of one of the kittens in her journal.
At age 14, Dugard gave birth to a daughter. She had a television in captivity, which gave her the only clues she had to understand pregnancy and child rearing. Three years later, she had another daughter.
She planted a garden and, with her fifth grade education, held school for her children. In her journal, she wrote of big dreams, including seeing her mother and riding in a hot air balloon.
Dugard and her children were eventually allowed into the house and out with the Garridos. Jaycee was told to pick a new name and became Alyssa — after actress Alyssa Milano. Despite being out in public, Dugard couldn’t run away because she was afraid. The manipulation of her captors prevented her from leaving, her therapist, Rebecca Bailey, said. It’s not Stockholm syndrome, according to Bailey, but a way to cope.
“It wasn’t something that I felt I could do,” Dugard said of running away with her daughters. “There was no leaving.”
In 2009, Garrido took his daughters with him to U.C. Berkeley to preach, where two campus police officers, Lisa Campbell and Ally Jacobs, took notice. “They saved us, something I couldn’t do for myself,” Dugard said of the women.
When Garrido was brought in for a parole meeting, an officer asked Dugard to identify herself. She said she could only write her name, and as soon as she did, “It was like a piece of me came back.”
Perhaps the part of the story that is most mystifying is the way Dugard has returned to the normal world after enduring almost two decades of trauma.
Indeed, she and her mother smile and laugh when they remember being reunited. “I don’t feel like I have this rage inside of me that’s building. I refuse to let him have that,” she said of Garrido. “He can’t have me.”
Now 31, Dugard has learned to drive and might go to college. She can even make jokes about her youthful skin, untouched by the sun for many years. Under Bailey’s care, Dugard is riding and caring for horses. “Maybe I believe in a higher power, but I believe in nature as healing,” she said.
As for her two children, they are in school and “happy and healthy.” Dugard and her mother said they only see themselves in the girls, not their father. Both Garridos will spend the rest of their lives in jail.
Although Dugard’s therapist said there are still challenges to overcome, both Dugard and her mother believe in the end, “Good wins.”
More on Jaycee Dugard from the Washington Post:
Watch the full interview here and pieces of the interview below: