I had the first interview with Jaycee Lee Dugard on my DVR. I watched it last night and it prompted me to write a post about a topic I see too often in my office. Jaycee wasn’t on a date when she was raped, but the story made me think of several of my clients from the past who have been date raped. Jaycee’s story is incredible and a lot of things she said in her interview are things I say to my students when they have been through a traumatic event such as rape. I can’t imagine being Jaycee’s counselor. I’ve never counseled someone who has undergone so much trauma over such a long period of time. She stated in the interview that she wanted to tell her story to help other survivors of sexual abuse. I know the statistics are high for women who have been sexually assaulted. In college the numbers go up. Date rape is more common than people realize because it goes unreported most of the time.
I want to point out some of the things that Jaycee said in her interview in hopes that it may help those of you out there reading this who have survived some type of sexual abuse. Obviously, Jaycee’s story is an extreme one which is why it so amazing that she can speak about what happened to her at all. If you are not aware, she was kidnapped at age 11 and held prisoner in Phillip Garrido’s back yard for 18 years. Jaycee was raped repeatedly for several years and had two children by Garrido in her teenage years. She stated in her interview that she is not angry and doesn’t feel rage toward Phillip or his wife, Nancy. She stated that she is unwilling to give him any more of her than he has already taken. I can’t imagine how hard that is for her to not feel anger. Although, I agree, it only means he wins if she continues to be angry. Anger and rage take a lot of energy. That energy can be put to better use because it isn’t hurting the person you want it to hurt. Students always ask me how to let go of the anger. The answer isn’t easy or simple. It is a matter of refocusing your thoughts and feelings. Those feelings of anger and rage will come unexpectedly and threaten to take over. When that happens it is a matter of distracting yourself and focusing on the blessings you do have in this life. I know Jaycee focused on her mother in those dark times. She also looked at the moon and remembered the pine cone she last touched before she was taken which were symbols of home. She stated today she focuses on her daughters and being back home. I believe she is also grateful just to be alive.
I also tell students to let yourself grieve. This person has taken a lot from you. They’ve taken your trust in people, your innocence, and sometimes your virginity. There isn’t a way to get some of those things back. It is okay to cry when you need to. It is healthy to recognize the loss, and it will take some time to adjust. Most students tell me they just want to forget it happened. I will tell you from my experience that isn’t possible. I recommend telling your story. I see people who have locked this secret in their heart for years. They haven’t told anyone or maybe only confided in one other person. It can consume your thoughts if you’ve been too afraid or ashamed to share. I think it was healing for Jaycee to write down her story and then talk about it in an interview with Diane Sawyer. I can’t explain the science behind why talking about the trauma is healing. I just know it seems to help those who do open up. Some people tell me it is validating that someone hears them and believes them. It takes away some of the burden and helps them to realize it wasn’t their fault. Some people are better at communicating their feelings through journals, music or art. Any way that you can let some of those emotions out is helpful. I think the best part about telling your story is you may be able to help someone else.
Jaycee mentions in her interview that she felt she was keeping Philip Garrido from hurting other little girls. If she stayed with him he wouldn’t have to seek out other girls to rape. This is what prompts many women to report their rape. Even though it is extremely difficult, in their mind it is worth it because it may save someone else. I know a lot of rape survivors who go on and counsel others going though the same thing. By reaching out to someone else, you can get outside of your own pain. It helps the brain to feel that at least something good is coming out of this horrible thing that happened. We all know that life isn’t fair. Bad things happen to good people. I can ask why all I want, but the reality is that it could happen to anyone. Jaycee thought this man was only going to ask her for directions. She didn’t sense any danger when she was suddenly kidnapped. In a date rape situation this happens all the time. You trust the person you are with. You don’t sense the danger. You believe this person will listen if you say no or get the hint by your body language that you want to stop. Unfortunately, there are many people out there only concerned about what they want and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.
If you are blaming yourself for being raped, please stop. It is not your fault. Your mind is going to play tricks on you. We all want to feel in control. Our brains tell us, “if only” all day long. It is not your fault that this person chose to violate you. In Jaycee’s interview she says it is his shame, not hers. He is the one with the problem, not her. She was an innocent victim who survived and is now thriving. She told her story so other victims could learn to feel the same way. I plan to buy and read her book, “A Stolen Life: A Memoir” that comes out today. I believe it may be helpful to many survivors of sexual abuse. I encourage all those out there who have survived being raped to continue to work on healing yourself and I hope in time you are able to find peace.