Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was abducted as an 11-year-old girl, held captive for 18 years and recently admitted to her mother she felt guilty for bonding with her captors, likely suffered from Stockholm syndrome, said one psychiatrist.
“An 11-year-old who is abducted and held against her will has little alternative but to bond with her captors,” said Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and FOX News contributor. “To maintain one’s desperation and grief and rage for many years, would be too damaging to the human mind – so the human mind tells itself a story about safety and contentment to safeguard itself – that’s the essence of Stockholm syndrome.”
Dugard was allegedly kidnapped by Nancy and Phillip Garrido in 1991 and kept in a series of tents and sheds in couple’s backyard in Antioch, Calif. Police say Phillip Garrido repeatedly raped Dugard, 29, and she gave birth to his two children, ages 11 and 15.
Stockholm syndrome occurs when a person is held by powerful captors, Ablow said. They ally themselves with their captors because they fear death, and one defense mechanism is for the person held hostage to imagine that their captor is on their side.
Undersheriff Fred Kollar of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office in California said Thursday during a news conference that Dugard and her two children were healthy, “but living in a backyard for 18 years takes its toll.”
Dugard was reunited Thursday with her mother, who was overjoyed to learn the ordeal was over and the daughter she feared dead was actually alive.
Ablow, who has not treated Dugard, said it was likely Dugard did not speak disparagingly about Phillip Garrido to her children.
“Jaycee’s first sexual experience was almost certainly with this man,” Ablow said. “She depended upon him for cleanliness, food and shelter. This complete dependence would preclude her from telling her children that this man was the devil.”
Going forward, Dugard might tell the children that “their father is a sick man, but they are now safe and very well cared for,” Ablow said.
Ablow said treating Dugard and her children will be like “walking a psychological tightrope” – they have been with the Garridos for so long, they inevitably will feel a sense of loss, yet all three need to learn to become independent.
"She is at risk for the most severe post-traumatic symptoms, including flashbacks, but she is also at risk for severe depression and for substance abuse to deal with the feelings likely to surface now that she is safe,” Ablow said. “Regarding Jaycee's children: They know nothing but the life they have lived and will need teams of healing professionals to encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings in order to have any hope of escaping severe mental disorders.”