Jaycee Dugard: Long Road Back After Kidnapping

Experts, families of past victims stress need for therapy, unconditional love.

ByABC News via logo
August 31, 2009, 11:02 PM

Sept. 1, 2009— -- Jaycee Dugard is back with her family 18 years after being kidnapped by Phillip Garrido at the age of 11. Now Dugard and her two daughters face a long road ahead as they try to adapt to a normal life.

As we begin to learn more about the way Jaycee Dugard and her children lived -- in a series of ramshackle tents and sheds amid squalor -- one can only imagine how Dugard will be able to re-integrate back into society.

"It's been suggested that there's been signs of Stockholm Syndrome, that she may be feeling loyalty, perhaps even guilt and that makes it all the more difficult. It also means it's going to require very serious therapy [and] intervention," said psychologist John Lutzker, Ph.D., director for the Center for Healthy Development at Georgia State University. "In addition to therapy, simply spending a lot of time with her family would be useful to help this process move along."

Ernie Allen, the president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said on "Good Morning America" today that it isn't surprising that Dugard was reportedly working for Garrido and had access to a computer and telephone during her captivity.

"I think if ever there's an example [of Stockholm Syndrome]…this is it," said Allen, whose organization helped find a psychologist to work with Dugard and her family. "This child was abducted when she was 11. She was terrorized, she was abused. The mind can only take so much anger, rage and fear, and small kindnesses cause these victims to identify with their captors."

"This happens with adults," he added. "First and foremost, what Jaycee did was figure out how to survive."

Mental health experts have few examples to guide them in dealing with extreme kidnapping cases such as this one.

In Austria Elisabeth Fritzl was held captive in her basement by her father and bore seven children with him until her plight was discovered last year. She has yet to be emerge in public, but reportedly has made significant progress, possibly even finding love.

Closer to home is the case of Elizabeth Smart, who was snatched from her suburban Utah bedroom in 2002 at the age of 14.

More than a year later, as hope was fading, an elderly couple spotted a disguised and frightened Elizabeth with her captor Brian David Mitchell. He reportedly forced her to live as his young wife. For the Smart family, forgiveness was key.

"We don't forget what happened," Elizabeth's mother Lois Smart told "GMA" in 2008. "But we have to move forward. And in order to move forward, we have to let the past go."