Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped for 18 years. She told Tri-Citians: ‘Face your fears and move beyond pain’

Spending time with horses helped Jaycee Dugard recover from the trauma of being kidnapped and held captive for 18 years, she said Monday at the Kadlec Foundation annual fundraising lunch in Kennewick.
Spending time with horses helped Jaycee Dugard recover from the trauma of being kidnapped and held captive for 18 years, she said Monday at the Kadlec Foundation annual fundraising lunch in Kennewick. Courtesy Jaycee Dugard

Kidnap victim Jaycee Dugard brought a message of hope and resilience to the Tri-Cities on Monday.

“I am here today because I do believe you can survive trauma and live a healthy life,” she said at a fundraising lunch for the Kadlec Foundation in Kennewick. “You have to face your fears and move beyond pain.”

Almost all tickets for the event sold out to $750-a-table sponsors before individual tickets were made available.

Dugard was an 11-year-old walking to her school bus stop in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., in June 1991.

She was forced into a car by two strangers and driven across the state to the backyard prison of sheds and tents set up by married couple Phillip and Nancy Garrido.

“I was kept hidden away for his disgusting pleasures for over 18 years,” she said. “He raped and manipulated me with lies.”

Dugard Yakima.jpg
Jaycee Dugard signs copies of her books, “A Stolen Life: A Memoir” and “Freedom: My Book of Firsts” in Yakima after speaking at a United Way breakfast. She spoke in Kennewick at a Kadlec Foundation fundraiser at noon. Tammy Ayer Yakima Herald-Republic

She became pregnant with her oldest daughter at 13 and her younger daughter at 17, living with “no doctor, no friends, no family, only captors,” she said.

Despite visits by parole officers to Phillip Garrido’s home, Dugard was not found until suspicions were raised when Garrido, a sex offender, took Dugard’s two daughters to a University of California police office. He was seeking permission to hold a religious event on campus.

The constant fear that her daughters would be taken away from her weighed on her, Dugard said.

Mom kept hope for kidnapped daughter

But her drive to survive increased when she had children who relied on her, she said.

“Somehow I endured and survived to raise my two daughters to the best of my ability in a world (my captors) created,” she said.

When she was freed she learned that her mother never gave up hope that she would return. That has given her the strength to be OK, she said.

In this May 7, 2013 file photo, Jaycee Dugard, right, who was abducted as a child and held for 18 years, and her mother, Terry Probyn, appear with their Hope Award at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children annual Hope Awards in Washington. Cliff Owen AP

“No one should ever take hope away from someone else,” she said. “Hope is a powerful thing even if it seems hopeless, which it did to me on countless days.”

She needed a safe community of people to help her when she was released from captivity with no money or home for her children, she said.

She found that feeling of safety, particularly interacting with horses, and has established the JAYC Foundation, to help others find their safe community of help.

It also works with law enforcement with a goal of helping overworked officers bring compassion and thoroughness to their work.

“To me growth and resiliency is about moving forward and continuing to hope that we can all do better,” she said.

Not only is she moving forward, but her daughters are doing well, she said. Both are in college.

She urged people to seek therapy and other help, rather than facing recovery by themselves.

“As a community,” she told those gathered at Three Rivers Convention Center, “I want you all to hear how important each and everyone of you is to the individuals who are less fortunate.”

The Kadlec Foundation raises money for Kadlec programs, including those that help the most vulnerable in the Tri-Cities.

In 2018 it provided more than $750,000 in equipment, programs and services for Kadlec patients and families.

Programs paid for included mammograms for under-insured women and helping patients in need with gas, bus passes and medical equipment.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.