Jaycee Dugard Confronts Rumors Of Stockholm Syndrome: ‘It’s Degrading’

Jaycee Dugard, following years of forced captivity, rape, and the birth of two daughters without any medical help, has managed to emerge victorious. Her recent interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer can leave little doubt to that, and Dugard continues to be a living testament to courage, resilience, and optimism.

Yet, as the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports, the idea that Jaycee Dugard suffered from Stockholm Syndrome is a pervasive theory often floated about her in connection with her captor, and Dugard herself would like to lay that particular idea to rest.

During her extensive, enlightening, and often uplifting interviews with Sawyer, Dugard made a point to address the oft-repeated notion that she became afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome during her captivity, which lasted 18 years. Dugard states unequivocally that how she reacted to her captivity and repeated rapes were a method of adapting and not indicative of an affliction.

“It’s degrading, having my family believe I was in love with this captor and wanted to stay with him…It made me want to throw up. I adapted to survive my circumstances.”

That adaptation no doubt contributed to her survival, as well as Dugard’s ability to view life through a lens of hope and optimism.

Stockholm Syndrome, the BBC reports, is a term most often associated with Patty Hearst, the newspaper heiress who was kidnapped in 1974. Hearst developed feelings of sympathy and even friendship toward her captors, and eventually joined them in a robbery. When she was caught, her lawyer claimed that the young woman had been brainwashed and was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome — a term used to explain the “irrational feelings of some captives for their captors.”

Stockholm Syndrome is a term developed by criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot and further expounded upon by psychiatrist Dr. Frank Ochberg in the 1970s, who put more definitive terms to what Stockholm Syndrome actually entailed.

“First people would experience something terrifying that just comes at them out of the blue. They are certain they are going to die.”

“Then they experience a type of infantilisation – where, like a child, they are unable to eat, speak or go to the toilet without permission.”

And then, small acts of kindness toward the captive by the captor, such as being given food, prompts a “primitive gratitude for the gift of life,” he explained.

“The hostages experience a powerful, primitive positive feeling towards their captor. They are in denial that this is the person who put them in that situation. In their mind, they think this is the person who is going to let them live.”

But for Jaycee Dugard, none of that is applicable. She always knew that her captor was both the means of her entrapment and her rapist, and although she tolerated him in an effort to adapt and survive, she has no fondness for him.

“It makes all I went through seem insignificant and boils it down to ‘You loved your captor, therefore, you never wanted to be free’ or somehow you were stupid enough to confuse abuse with love,” Dugard writes in her new book, Freedom: My Book of Firsts.

“Phillip was good at making me feel sorry for him. He was a seasoned manipulator. I was a naïve girl… I was alone. Completely. Years passed — years of abuse physically, verbally, and emotionally. I adapted to survive. We all can learn to adapt to survive. It’s in our genes.”

In fact, since regaining her freedom, Jaycee Dugard has gone from strength to strength, from triumph to triumph, and one of the ways she has coped with her past while embracing her future is through becoming a national advocate and the founder of the JAYC Foundation.

JAYC is an acronym for Just Ask Yourself to Care, and it works toward helping victims of sexual abuse and kidnapping gain feelings of empowerment.

But even while living a life of power and empowerment, becoming a successful author and raising two daughters to live fearlessly, Jaycee Dugard still expresses frustration and bafflement over how she could have been kept imprisoned for so long.

Of Phillip Garrido, the man who kidnapped her, she wondered why there hadn’t been frequent checks on him from his parole agents.

“He wore a GPS tracker. You could clearly see him going into the backyard,” she said. “What’s the point of a GPS tracking system if you don’t follow up?”

Dugard received a $20 million state settlement for parole agents’ repeated failures to find her at the Garrido home, and monitoring policies have been revamped from the ground up as a result of her experience.

But throughout her recent interview with Diane Sawyer, Dugard continued to pivot back to her theme of moving forward and being strong for her two daughters, both of whom are now in college. As for anger, Dugard believes it is better to get it out.

“I’ve let it all out,” she said. “You can’t keep that stuff inside.”

Dugard said she doesn’t “wallow in self-pity,” contemplate the “what ifs of life,” or live in a state of rage when it comes to her captors, USA Today reports.

“That’s the choice I have made. It doesn’t make sense to me to get angry and stay that way. I don’t want to be a mad, angry person.”

Jaycee Dugard’s second memoir is out July 12. For more on Jaycee, and why she says she would allow her daughters to see the man who imprisoned her and fathered them, click here.

[Image credit ABC News]