Jaycee Dugard’s life in captivity for the past 18 years was lived out in a combination of sheds and tarps set up in the backyard of the couple alleged to have abducted her, Phillip and Nancy Garrido of Antioch, CA. The backyard compound created to hide away Jaycee and her two young children was so overgrown that no one ever noticed anything amiss. No one, not even Phillip Garrido’s parole officer, bothered to check out the backyard’s contents. Had someone intervened, rather than ignoring the massive eyesore in the Garrido’s backyard, Jaycee’s ordeal possibly would have ended much sooner, and a serial kidnapper and rapist would finally be off the streets. Instead, she was locked away, while her alleged perpetrator was free to do as he pleased. Considering his rap sheet, that is a frightening thought.
According to a recent article on cnn.com, victims of abuse suffer from “complex trauma.” Oh really? What a major psychological breakthrough! Can you read the sarcasm between the lines?!
Come now. Those who have been at the receiving end of any form of physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse will suffer some sort of trauma. As will their families. Everyone has an internal coping mechanism that allows them to persevere in the most horrifying situations. Many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder after the fact. Some will turn to drugs to put the past behind them, while others will find solace in support groups or the church. Certain individuals seek help from professionals: they notify the police, enter counseling, and try to take back control of their lives.
During the past few decades the public has learned of several sensational stories in which the victim lived to tell about his or her ordeal. There is the harrowing yet hopeful story of Dave Pelzer, known to the masses by his memoir, A Child Called “It”. There is also the TV mini-series I Know My First Name Is Steven, based on the abduction and escape of Steven Stayner. In 2007, Shawn Hornbeck, missing since 2002, was found alive after years in captivity. Recent headlines involving Jaycee Lee Dugard point to yet another such case. In all of these situations, the survivors suffered unimaginable physical and emotional trauma, as did their families, not knowing if their children were dead or alive. But by the grace of God these children did survive the evil that was inflicted on them. Yet mere survival does not necessarily mean that there will not be prolonged psychological damage.
Fortunately for victims of violent crime, there are crisis centers, support groups, and mental health professionals that provide a link to the help they need. For many of these people the healing process will be ongoing. That’s the tragedy of survival–whatever monstrosity you experienced and overcame will always be a part of you–but it doesn’t have to define who you are. You are the master of your fate, the captain of your soul.