Friday, August 19, 2011

A Stolen Life

When I imagine the future, I see myself helping families heal after traumatic situations. Families are like snowflakes: they come in many shapes and sizes and no two are the same....When two or three snowflakes merge, they strengthen their chances of surviving in an ever-changing world. Unlike snowflakes, given the right tools, families can survive through the worst conditions. — from A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
There have always been evil people in the world. All anyone has to do is study history or read the Bible to see that wicked and perverse individuals have always been with us. The difference between now and the past is that because of technology evil is more readily disseminated, so that if we are not careful we can be inundated by both pictures and ideas that attack faith and  human dignity. I am thinking especially of a person like Philip Garrido, whose unwholesome fascination with little girls was inflamed by pornographic films and magazines, like throwing a lit match down an oil well. Unfortunately, the one to suffer the most from Garrido's twisted obsession was an innocent little girl, Jaycee Dugard, who has written a memoir about how she survived the eighteen year ordeal.

As Petula Dvorak of the Washington Post writes:
The vast majority of 11-year-olds who walk to the school bus stop on a crisp morning in a quiet town, especially a tiny one like mine, will not be kidnapped. They will not be turned into sex slaves, tortured in a backyard shed, repeatedly raped and impregnated by a drug addict who says his evil deeds are the bidding of the angels whispering in his head.
Jaycee Dugard assures us: “Stranger abduction is very rare.” But Dugard is part of the “1% of the population” who has been abducted. All those things happened to her.
In her book, “A Stolen Life,” Dugard gives us all the fetid horror that authors like Dean Koontz and James Pattersonhave been trying to conjure on their pages for years. Only this time, it’s real. And it’s worse than fiction.
The story of Dugard’s ordeal fuels every helicopter parent’s unreasonable Velcro parenting. See, it can happen! And now, most American children will never ride their bikes in the empty lot until dusk or kick a can on a meandering walk home.
It’s a tough read. But work through it, and you’ll find more than the stomach-churning details that make you put it down the first night. This little memoir, which shot to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list the day before it was released, was written plainly and simply by Dugard herself, without the help of a ghostwriter. And in that, it is powerful beyond its voyeurism.
Dugard starts the book with her life in my home town, South Lake Tahoe, Calif., where her family relocated after their apartment in Anaheim, home of Disneyland, was burgled. Aside from the small grease stain that the casinos occupy in this Sierra Nevada idyll, Tahoe is a quiet place. The most frequent assaults are night raids on garbage cans by raccoons.
I walked to the bus stop throughout my childhood. I was always afraid, like Dugard was, of missing the bus and having to ask my dad — asleep after pulling a night shift in the casinos — for a ride to school. I was lucky. I made it to school just about every day and was away at college on June 10, 1991.
On that morning, my little brother did his usual trek to a bus stop just a few miles from the spot where Dugard was doing the same thing. It was the last time my brother walked alone as a kid.
A car pulled up alongside Dugard, the window rolled down, and the driver began asking for directions. This happened all the time in Tahoe, where we would delight in sending tourists on a 70-mile trip around the lake to get to the casinos that were just two miles away in the opposite direction.
But the driver, Phillip Garrido, didn’t want the casinos. He and his wife, Nancy, wanted the 11-year-old blonde in a pink windbreaker. He zapped her with a stun gun and dragged her into his car. The voice describing all this could be straight from the pages of an 11-year-old’s diary, but the details are more likely to be found in the script of a hard-core porn flick. “The strange man tells me to look at him. I glance real quickly and want to start laughing in spite of my fearfulness. His private part looks so funny,” Dugard writes of the first night that Garrido forced her to shower with him, then handcuffed her and locked her in a shed in the back yard of his house outside Antioch, Calif.
 Many abducted children never return to tell the tale. Because of Jaycee we know first hand about those first moments of sheer horror that descend upon a child when the realization dawns that he or she is in the hands of strangers. Anyone who causes that degree of fear in a child should burn in hell forever and ever, not to mention all the other hideous acts that usually follow.* The mystery of why someone would want to hurt a child in such a manner is one which Jaycee never understands. I certainly do not understand it myself. I guess it is a blessing that my mind cannot even go there.

What saved Jaycee's sanity and self-respect, other than the grace of God, was the memory of her mother. She knew that she was her mother's beloved child, no matter what she was to her captors. She knew that the love she had for her mother was a reality as real as the nightmare around her. When she bore the children of her rapist, without any medical assistance through either of her pregnancies or deliveries, she chose love over hatred. She nurtured and protected her children and did everything she could to educate them with the meager resources at her disposal. When her youngest daughter was eleven, the very age in which she was kidnapped, Jaycee and the girls were delivered at last from captivity.

The book is disturbing beyond words; I have not read anything so upsetting since the last time I read about the Holocaust or life in the gulag. To think that such horrors occur in our own country makes me want to never leave the house. But I do, because I must. The fact that Jaycee since her liberation has been able to embrace all the good that life has to offer, and she refuses to be stifled by the past or poisoned by bitterness, is enough to give the rest of us courage to do what we have to do in our own pilgrimages.

HERE are photos of the tent in the backyard where Jaycee and her children were held captive.

The review in the Washington Post is definitely worth reading.

* NOTE: On this blog we pray for all souls to be saved and we acknowledge that the final judgment belongs to God alone regardless of what we may personally think or feel about a particular crime.



Julygirl said...

She was/is a remarkable young woman to have kept it together all those years. Hope and trust in a better tomorrow was her secret of survival.

Brantigny said...

One lonely wet evening while Iwas in Okinawa I sat with a Franciscan Chaplain. He told be that he had one summer evening been called to a house by a woman because her friend was acting strangly. When he arrived the house was cold even though it was a hot summer and the windows were open. He believed that the woman was possessed or was in the process of being so. The room was full of pornography. he told teh friend to take and destroy all the pornography, whereupon the room warmed up and the woman was able to make her confession and he blessed the room. Satan is evil, he lies and he oppresses. his greatest idea was to allow people to believe that hell does not exist, no hell no heaven, no satan, No God. Do as you wish and feel guilt free. We assist by our apathy.

Lorraine said...

... her sufferings are unimaginable...

Christina said...

I want to read this book, but I'm not sure if I can. Since I became a mother, I find it nearly impossible to read about such suffering. It keeps me awake at night to think about a poor little child going through such horrible things, and to think about it happening to mine is more than I can endure.

CR Wall said...

Dear Lord, help us to live safely in this world today!!

May God heal Jaycee's heart. Though she will never forget her agonies, may Our Lord Jesus in His infinite love and compassion comfort and sustain her.