Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Why did Jaycee stay?

To assume that Dugard, held captive for 18 years, could have just run away is not to understand the power that captors can hold over young kidnap victims, experts say.

By Michael B. FarrellStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / September 1, 2009

This undated photo shows Jaycee Lee Dugard.

William Carl Probyn via the Orange County Register/ AP


San Francisco

Of the many questions surrounding the 18-year captivity of Jaycee Lee Dugard, one is why she never escaped.

Skip to next paragraph

Since Ms. Dugard reappeared after being snatched from her neighborhood in 1991 and forced to live in a squalid backyard compound in Antioch, Calif., a snapshot of her life is emerging through interviews with neighbors and associates of her alleged captors that suggests she had many opportunities to flee.

But childhood psychologists and abduction experts say that young kidnapping victims rarely risk trying to escape because of fear, coercion, or threats from their captors.

"She was 11 when she was abducted. She was clearly threatened and intimidated," says Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "What we see over and over again in these cases is that these kids figure out how to survive."

Philip Garrido and his wife, Nancy, were charged on Friday in El Dorado County with 29 counts of rape and kidnapping in connection with Dugard's abduction from South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Police have also said that Mr. Garrido fathered Dugard's 11 and 15 year old daughters.

Recent reports suggest that Dugard had contact with customers of a printing business that Garrido operated out of his house, and that neighbors called the police to report children living in tents in his backyard.

Her recovery is indeed a rare ending to the type of kidnapping story that usually ends tragically, but there are parallels to be found with the few cases that resemble Dugard's long captivity.

Steven Stayner, Shawn Hornbeck, and Elizabeth Smart were all young kidnapping victims who came in contact with people other than their captors. All seemingly had a chance to cry for help.