A Stolen Life | A Story of Rescue and Life After Tragedy
A Stolen Life is the story of Jaycee Lee Dugard, victim of child abduction, rape, and imprisonment for 18 years before she is reunited with her family. (The one imprisioned in the backyard…remember?) To watch the full story with Diane Sawyer click here.
This was hands-down the hardest book I have ever read. Why would anyone continue reading something about a convicted rapist and his brutal torture of an 11-year-old child for 18 years? Why is this book #1 on the NYT bestseller list?
Because we know the ending: RESCUE. Jaycee Dugard is rescued. Her perpetrator and his wife are in prison for life. Jaycee is safe and raising her daughters in California.
“In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen. For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse. For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation. On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived. A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.”
Jaycee was a typical 11-year-old girl who loved her mother and worried about popularity at school – until one day on the way to the bus stop she was kidnapped by strangers, imprisoned, and forced to be Phillip Garrido’s ‘sex prize’. The details are harrowing – she is handcuffed in a shed, forced to dress up and participate in the fantasy rape scenes for days of drug-fueled “runs” of sex and torture. She describes these ‘runs’ as the worst moments in her life, because she never knew when they would end — and then when he would be back for more. The most sickening part of the entire book was how Phillip would cry and beg Jaycee for forgiveness after these episodes. He blamed his actions on voices he heard and would often read from The Bible to her. Over time, Phillip’s manipulation took the place of the handcuffs — and the fear and confusion kept Jaycee imprisoned in her life with Phillip and his wife Nancy. In 18 years, she never made an attempt to escape.
Phillip was a convicted sex offender who was out on parole supposedly closely monitored. In fact, parole officers visited his house 60 times while he had Jaycee imprisoned. In reading, at times tears would stream down my face and other times I was literally pounding my fist on the table, shouting that our justice system is MESSED UP. How could they not find her? What is wrong with our justice system that they would let a man like this out of prison and put others at risk? But the bigger question plaguing my mind was, “how could Jaycee survive 18 years of brutal torture?” Sexual violence so horrific that I couldn’t even read the words on the page. How did she survive?
Jaycee held on to hope. She found purpose in the living in the backyard — raising her daughters and educating them. She made lesson plans and printed off worksheets; taught them to read and write.
Stories of rescue are contagious. I forced myself to read through the most horrific parts of the book, because I knew the ending. I knew rescue was coming – at the age of 29. I knew she didn’t lose all hope, because she wrote the book in my hands. I knew she must have found forgiveness, even just a remnant, because her anger didn’t inflict every page. The most powerful scene in the book is when she takes her voice back. She sat, trembling in the police station, and told the officers her real name. It would be the first time in eighteen years, she’d written or spoken her own name.
“JAYCEE LEE DUGARD”
She wrote, and with the stroke of the pen took her voice back from Phillip Garrido. After nearly two decades of living her life under his whims and never being allowed to leave the house or do anything she wanted to do, much less decide what to do with her body, she was finally free. But the road to recovery would be long and painful.
She said she doesn’t want the imprisonment and rape to define her – she is a mother, sister, friend, and daughter — not a victim.
A Stolen Life is about hope and new beginnings – that there is life after something tragic.
Jaycee Dugard started an organization to help counsel victims of abduction reunite with their families.
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