BY SUSAN VOYLES • SVOYLES@RGJ.COM • AUGUST 27, 2009
People should not be quick to judge Jaycee Dugard for keeping silent on her abduction for the last 18 years because of the power held over her by her abductors, several Reno and California psychology and sociology experts say.
Dugard was an 11-year-old child when she was kidnapped from a bus stop by Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy, authorities say. Authorities said that Dugard spent much of the time in an Antioch, Calif., backyard shed with two daughters, who were fathered by Garrido.
“People shouldn’t jump to conclusions. We don’t know the facts,” said JoAnne Lippert, a Reno psychologist who works with the National Center of Missing Children.
“Clearly, we have numerous cases where these perpetrators very effectively craft what their victim believes and understands and thereby controls them physically and emotionally.”
If her kidnappers also control her food, her water, access to light and information, that puts them totally in control, Lippert said.
“You can’t know how big that is. When you are 11 years old, you don’t have a lot of information to make sense out of this,” she said.
Lippert said Dugard and her family are going to have to through a long process to understand what happened.
“What she was told, what she experienced, what she believed to be true,” Lippert said. “Resolving those with what was actually going and dealing with the losses of all those years.”
Jana Lalich, a California State University professor of sociology at Chico, agreed.
“If you are someone at 11 years old, that’s a very impressionable age,” she said. “If fed bull long enough over a time, she could believe that as her reality. It doesn’t take long to wipe out someone’s memory, give them a new identity and new memories.”
And if similar to Elizabeth Smart, another young girl in Utah, Lalich said Dugard would have been exposed to a lot of threats, violence and sexual abuse. Brian David Mitchell, and his estranged wife Wanda Barzee were arrested in 2003 for allegedly kidnapping Smart and taking her to California before returning to Utah, where they were caught nine months later. He had kept her as a second wife.
“She certainly wasn’t gone that long,” she said. “Anytime you use that kind of force with someone, it’s not difficult to bend to their will, especially if they are a child.
“If over time, they become convinced by fear, force or constant repetition, she’s not likely to run away. What could she run away to?” Lalich said.
Bill O’Donohue, UNR clinical psychology professor, agreed. He said Dugard could have been told her abduction was her parents’ idea or her parents could be hurt if she doesn’t do what she is old. “If you are 11year-old, you are gullible,” he said.
“Kids can be manipulated if somebody is a smart enough sociopath. Look at Bernie Madoff. He manipulated smart, successful adults and took billions of dollars. He manipulated thousands of people,” he said. In June, the New York financier was sentenced to 150 years in prison after bilking thousands of investors.
Story first published on Reno Gazette-Journal on August 27, 2009