Nancy Garrido: Was Jaycee Dugard's Female Abductor a Victim Too or an Accomplice?

According to prosecutors, Nancy Garrido is every bit as responsible as her husband in the alleged abduction, rape and 18-year imprisonment of Jaycee Dugard.

But Garrido's case raises a number of questions as disturbing as the ramshackle conditions in which Dugard was allegedly held captive: Was she a willing co-conspirator with her husband, Phillip Garrido, a convicted sex offender? Or was she, like Dugard, a victim of a predator whose life was at stake if she tried to escape?

VIDEO: Jaycee?s aunt describes the kidnapping victim?s return home after 18 years.Play

Garrido is not the first woman accused of helping a man abduct and abuse a child, but the extreme nature and length of the case augments the arguments both for and against her culpability.

"I don't cut her a lot of slack. She should be judged on the basis of her involvement and the things she did," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"The reality is she is an adult and is accountable and responsible for her own activity. There is no question [Nancy Garrido] played some role in [Dugard's] captivity, and when [Phillip Garrido] was in prison she played a significant role," he said.

Nancy faces the same 29 felony counts as her husband, including committing a forcible lewd act on a child. One of the most disturbing facets of her case, and a potential problem in her defense, is that she served as the girl's sole captor for a five-month period while her husband went to prison for violating his parole.

"If she's being controlled, he doesn't have to be there physically. If she's being controlled, she's being controlled," Nancy Garrido's attorney Gilbert Maines told "Good Morning America" today.

"I guess I would say she's a victim," he said.

That may be her defense attorney's argument, but it also jibes with some of what researchers know about women who abet sexual predators.

"There is a broad spectrum of collaboration, which covers the kind of people who are equal partners in crime, motivated by excitement and sexual interest, all the way to people who are doormats and are highly victimized themselves," said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at New Hampshire University.

Women are rarely sexual predators -- only about 10 percent, according to experts -- and when they do molest children, they are more often accomplices.

According to an article in the Journal of Sex Research by Finkelhor from 2000, women may account for up to 5 percent of the abuse of girls and 20 percent of boys, but in most of those cases they were working with a male accomplice.

Finkelhor said it was difficult to draw a line -- both legally and morally -- that would clearly define when a woman had been coerced into participating in abuse and when she had gone along willingly.

"Moral culpability and criminal responsibility is trickier. I don't think there are clear criteria you can apply. Some might say, even if she was seriously intimidated she should have known what was going on was wrong. Someone who was long abused might live with an internal representation of that authority," he said.

Finkelhor said the public often wants these women explained by complicated diagnoses of mental illnesses like Stockholm syndrome, or that they were seriously abused, but that often the women find themselves stuck in a routine that they can't break.

"In these situations where women are intimidated and controlled, they have sometime made peace with a kind of subservience. They go along with the program and lose track of their moral boundaries. They've defined what they're doing as keeping the guy happy and placated," he said.

Details of Nancy Garrido's alleged involvement in Dugard's 1991 abduction are still emerging, though it appears she may have played a role both in the kidnapping and her two-decade captivity in which Phillip Garrido raped her and fathered her two daughters, now 15 and 13 years old.

Phillip's brother, Ron Garrido, described Nancy as "a robot," in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Adding to speculation about the nature of the Garridos' relationship and Nancy's own judgment are the circumstances under which she met her husband..

The two met while he was serving time at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., for a 1976 rape.

A jury will ultimately have to decide whether Nancy is a battered woman or an accomplice, said Gloria Allred, a California defense attorney, not involved in the case.

"Her best defense is if she didn't actively participate in the abduction. The worst case is if she did participate. Were there threats made against her? Was she physically abused?" Allred said.

The battered-wife defense was successfully used by Hedda Nussbaum, a New York City book publisher who was accused of aiding her husband, Joel Steinberg, in the abuse and 1987 murder of Lisa Steinberg, the 6-year-old girl who lived with the couple as their daughter.

Nussbaum, who was severely abused herself, became a cause celebre of women's rights groups and was ultimately acquitted, though Steinberg was convicted.

In another case from the 1980s, Sunset Strip Killers Doug Clark and Carol M. Bundy were convicted of a series of sexual murders in Los Angeles. Their victims were young prostitutes and runaways.

In a particularly gruesome murder, Clark took the severed head of one of his victims and had oral sex with it in the shower and stored it in an icebox. Bundy, who died in 2003, admitted she had been present at some of the murders.

Clark remains on death row.