Book Review: A Stolen Life

Let’s read about Jaycee Dugard before bed

Let’s watch documentaries about her before bed

So smart

I’m totally going to be able to go to sleep now

I’m not going to get a panic attack or anything

Nooo

I’ll TOTALLY be able to go to bed

This is a monumental book in many ways. It’s one of the few times that a victim of prolonged sexual imprisonment has come forth to tell her story. Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped at the age of 11 and held captive for 18 years while a man repeatedly raped her and had her bear two of his children. She was miraculously freed at the age of 29 and, two years later, seems to be overall pretty well-adjusted and happy.

I’ve read a fair amount on this subject, but it’s still very painful to read about Jaycee’s story. One of the awful things about her situation is that her captor was “nice” to her when he wasn’t assaulting her, sobbing and apologizing profusely, and telling her she was “helping him” with his problem. The confusion of dealing with that must do untold amounts of damage, since if someone is always monstrous, it’s much easier to look upon him as the enemy. While it’s natural to wonder about these things, it has always troubled me when I hear strongly worded questions about why victims in these situations don’t try harder to escape. I think it’s very difficult to imagine the amount of physical and psychological fear and confusion that these individuals undergo, as well as the coping mechanisms that they must use in order to simply survive. Through Jaycee’s words, her reality changed so much that she began to look upon being separated from her captor with crippling fear of the unknown.

This book is hard to read and hard to review. It’s a book about child abduction; I certainly didn’t “like” it. It was very inspirational nevertheless and I am very glad I read through the whole book, though it was quite painful. (*Edit* actually, I’m really regretting reading it because it’s 1:47 am and I’m freaking out and can’t sleep.)

Mainly, I’m so angry at the system for failing her. I can’t help but feel like not only was she victimized by her captors but by the system who was put in place to protect her (all of us really). I can understand missing her on one or even two of the visits but over eighteen years is just ridiculous. Probation officers came to that house over sixty times during her captivity. Why in all those times didn’t they just check the backyard? I am left wondering WHY?

Ms. Dugard’s story and similar ones (Elizabeth Smart, Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus, Michelle Knight, etc.) make me so paranoid. How many other missing children are being held captive, practically in plain sight, and we just aren’t seeing them? And how many thousands of other children around the world are experiencing similar atrocities right now? Ms. Dugard was able to escape after 18 years, but so many children haven’t and won’t. It makes me want to curl up in a ball in bed and sob all day long.

Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

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Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

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