A Stolen Life
By: Melissa Frasco
"A pinecone was my last grip of freedom, so to me they represent what was stolen away from me." (Dugard 267 16-18)
A pinecone was the last thing she touched of the outside before she was held captive.
“I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen.” (Dugard inside cover 3-4) Jaycee Dugard was eleven years old while walking to school on a summer’s day in 1991. This day would dictate the next eighteen years of her life. The power of an eleven year old is anything but intimidating, though her mental strength is what helped keep her alive. Jaycee was kidnapped, raped, and held in captivity for years by a mentally ill man, Phillip Garrido, and his wife, Nancy, who forced her to go by the name Allissa. She gave birth twice in tents, without professional help, while in captivity. At seventeen, she had two baby girls she raised, cared for and taught with only a fifth grade education. During her stolen life, Philip was checked on regularly by a parole officer. He was a known sex offender and drug addict and was even jailed at one time while he had Jaycee. (He failed a drug test and was imprisoned for 30 days). However, not one of these officers discovered the extended part of the yard where Jaycee was forced to live. For years, Jaycee had no contact with anyone except Phillip and Nancy, and they became family-like. Forced to rely on the Garridos for everything, Jaycee believed everything told to her by them. She was told no one would want her if she ran away and that her parents were not looking for her. Though painful to think about, Jaycee always longed to return home and see her mom. Thoughts about reuniting with her step dad, mom, sister and aunt were soon to difficult to imagine. However, Jaycee never gave up; she would have dreams where she was free and could escape to see her family. This day did come, and this fateful day came on August 26, 2009. “It was like breaking an evil spell.” (Dugard 209 8) Jaycee was no longer under Philip's reign. Her life put on pause for 18 years and could now start again. By the time Jaycee was twenty-nine she had never driven a car, gone through high school, or college and many things were newer than ever. After surviving eighteen years Jaycee continued to be strong through her recovery. “I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.” (Dugard inside cover 12-13)is written on the inside cover her book. This statement could not be more true. After so long, Jaycee did not just ease back to her old life. She had nothing to her name, no possessions, and no idea what life could be like outside of Phillip. With the help of a reunification specialist, publicist, and her own family Jaycee achieved her introduction back into the world. However, she was still uneasy about herself and her daughters being publicized by the media. She had to worry about watching their games at school, picking up the phone, even helping at school functions. Just as before, though, Jaycee would make it through. She was not only a survivor, she was strong. Her years that were stolen can never be regained, “Given the right tools, even a family that has been torn apart by unimaginable circumstances can learn to build a new path together.”.(Dugard 267 23-25) To have so much hope and strength, the amount of endurance in Jaycee is astounding.
As surreal as Jaycee Dugard's circumstances were she managed to survive. Surviving not only by living but mentally holding on to hope. Mental endurance is not the general necessity for an eleven year old, but for almost twenty years she endured horrid conditions until she was freed. As a free woman she became not only a symbol of hope she started her own foundation for others who needed it. The JAYC foundation is for families who have suffered traumas and tragedy and have to learn how to heal. "My goal is to help one family at a time, providing the tools and time they (families) need to thrive." (Dugard 268 7-8). Even while in her 'stolen' life Jaycee dreamed of owning a place where families and animals would have a safe haven to heal and rebuild. The astounding feat of Jaycee is that not only was she strong but she is strong enough to spread her hope and stamina to other families. As hard as it is to understand the fight in her is uncontainable.