Please read PART 1 Stolen Youth: Jaycee Dugard to understand the context of this post. Child kidnapping is an emotional subject to think about and discuss, but this case merits more attention than it has already received. Not brief and superficial comments, but a deeper analysis of the many aspects of what this extraordinary person may have experienced.
Being violently kidnapped at age 11 would be an incredible trauma even without any sexual abuse involved. Imagine a child suddenly torn from her family and familiar environment and brought to a strange prison-like room by some monster, without knowing why or what was going to happen next. Fear of possibly imminent death would be perfectly natural and wholly realistic. At such a moment rape or sex abuse might be the least of anybody’s worries.
After the terrifying first days or weeks she may have no longer feared that she might die soon, and instead she undoubtedly longed for a return to her family and familiar environment. After the victim was rescued her therapist would have an enormous challenge helping the victim overcome such a trauma: her feelings of helplessness, betrayal (nobody protected her to prevent the kidnapping, nobody rescued her for a long time), her rage against the perpetrators, etc. After her rescue all of those internal feelings needed to be overcome before she could resume a fairly normal life.
A therapist would have to reassure her that her feeling of helplessness over such a long period of time was understandable, but might have become an entrenched tendency or habit, which needs to be changed. No small challenge for any victim in such a case. Her understandable feeling of helplessness might make her overly sensitive to any possible threats in her future experience, so a good therapist would advise her to try to relax and not be fearful of possibly imminent disaster every day. In contrast, her feelings of betrayal were actually a rude awakening to a sad fact of life: despite appearances the government is largely incompetent to protect citizens and often does a good job of merely protecting itself at citizens’ expense. On the other hand the good news is that if most strangers don’t harm or kill children every day it’s because of our natural humanity; most people have a healthy paternal/maternal instinct to love, protect, and nurture children – not harm them.
In my opinion the victims who were in more need of therapy were the other family members. They not only suffered the child being separated from them but also not knowing whether the child was alive or dead. The worst nightmare I ever had was several years ago when I dreamed that some friends gave me permission to take their 10-year-old daughter to another city. While we were in the strange city waiting for a bus we were walking around a shopping mall when I turned around and the child was suddenly gone. I looked all over for her and finally went to the mall manager’s office. He helped me look throughout the mall and we even went outside onto the crowed street, but she was nowhere to be found. I felt such a deep sense of terror that I woke up perspiring.
But on top of being kidnapped, the victim in this case was sexually abused and raped repeatedly. Her desires and preferences were ignored and disregarded; she had no free choice or only very limited choices about sexual contact with her captor. In addition, he tried to persuade her that he “needed” to exploit her insensitively to avoid committing worse injuries against other children (he had “a problem”), so it was her supposed duty to cooperate as much as possible. In other words, her victimization was supposedly a public service. Beyond the philosophical issues in such an immoral proposition, the monster was telling her nonsense not very different from what average parents tell their kids.
There are no detailed descriptions of the rapes in the victim’s published memoir (1), so we are left to imagine what actually happened frequently over a period of years. She says he penetrated her and it was painful. She also says she didn’t enjoy it or experience any pleasure, but is that all? She says that she spent time thinking about what he might do, and that he did “disgusting things” to her. Does that mean he tried to do more than merely penetrate her? We can imagine a monster coercing her to orally stimulate him, and the aversion she would have felt. Or perhaps he orally stimulated her, and depending on how sensitive or insensitive he was, such an experience might cause ambivalent feelings in the victim. If she was previously led to believe that only “bad girls” desire or enjoy sexual contact, or worse that sexual desire or sexual pleasure before puberty is impossible or unthinkable, then she might have the difficult task of reconciling her previous anti-sex indoctrination with the contradictory evidence of her own senses: stimulating genital contact in a general context of major sensory deprivation.
If that is what actually happened, what would a good therapist tell the victim? A good therapist should say there is nothing wrong with a helpless victim experiencing some physical pleasure during the isolation and sexual abuse, but she shouldn’t admit that publicly in her book because it might provoke other monsters to commit similar crimes against other young girls in the future. In the interest of more “public service,” she should not publicly admit that sexual experience under such unusual conditions might contradict the traditional fantasy of the “good girl” who would never experience sexual desire and sexual pleasure before puberty under any circumstances. But a private acknowledgment that such conventional beliefs are pure nonsense might actually be very therapeutic for a kidnap victim.
An even more complicated aspect of this case is the two daughters born as a result of the rapes. Before they were freed those two girls lived under the monster’s control for many years: 15 years in the case of the first-born, and 12 years for the second-born. Their mother’s book doesn’t say anything about her daughters’ possible sexual victimization. That is understandable – the mother wanted to protect her daughters’ privacy while they were minors; the two daughters themselves should be free to decide to reveal that information or not when they are mature. (They are now over 18.) But considering that the kidnap victim was in no position to protect her daughters, and knowing that the kidnapper was a very disturbed and probably psychotic individual who might have difficulty resisting the temptation and opportunity, we should not be surprised if the daughters were sexually abused too.
Once her daughters were born, Jaycee was no longer the lone captive. She now had potential competitors for the jailer’s attention. The young girls had no other boys or men to distract them. Was their jailer uninterested? Did he suddenly reform and become a good boy? Or is there a hidden chapter in this story? Growing up in a makeshift prison isolated from the larger culture, a micro-environment where rape and child sex abuse were the norm, girls who experience early sex abuse might very well react differently from their mother or other girls whose early childhood was in a very different “politically correct” context. In the possible event that the daughters were also abused, and if their reaction to their experience was very different from the mother’s, I think they should be supported and validated however they reacted, rather than being encouraged to deny or hide how they reacted to their sexual experience – if any.
Imagine a known sex maniac supervising the education of two very young girls – a captive audience. It’s possible that he exploited the opportunity and they grew up without traditional sexual inhibitions. In that possible scenario, a man of his age would have so many opportunities that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill the demands of two energetic young girls who had nothing to be ashamed of, as well as two mature women available to him. Eventually he might even become bored with sex as well as overwhelmed by guilt. After all, the girls were slaves and prisoners who had committed no crime, which would explain why after 18 years of successfully evading arrest he inadvertently gave himself up to police.
In Western culture today there is tremendous social and political pressure against acknowledging sexual desire and sexual pleasure before puberty, so it is not surprising if some individuals (especially girls) are strongly discouraged from revealing feelings and experiences that contradict conventional cultural values and expectations. We might even call such denial a cultural imperative, since it’s not like Western culture tolerates a diversity of viewpoints on sexual desire and sexual pleasure in childhood. Strict adherence to a hysterical dogma is required and enforced by law. Good girls are mentally castrated girls, period. No ifs, ands, or buts. It’s possible that – and would not be surprising if – what the mother said in her first book is a highly selective and politically correct version of what went on.
But the whole truth – politically correct or not – has some claim to be heard, regardless of the possible repercussions for cherished beliefs about good girls. It is clear to me that even good girls may feel sexual desire and experience sexual pleasure under some conditions. What is needed is the voices of courageous girls and women to acknowledge that themselves and stop the gruesome cycle of mothers mentally castrating daughters generation after generation. It might be essential for the girls in this case, as well as satisfying to them, to validate what they felt regardless of the possible damage to cherished conventional beliefs about what is really possible and acceptable for young girls. No more “public service.”
It might also be very lucrative for the girls to tell their story, especially if it includes what a large segment of the public secretly considers spicy elements. The whole story might even include an attempted cover-up. A greedy author might be tempted to embellish the story to maximize profits, but I suspect that the simple and whole truth in this case is spicy enough.
Child sex abuse that is insensitive, exploitative, or coercive is a danger, but should it be such a hysterical priority for society? There is a much more cruel, serial killer that steals the lives of 7 children every day, 2,500 children every year in the U.S. alone, and he is active all over the world. We know who it is; that monster’s name is Cancer. During the 18 years that Jaycee Dugard was a prisoner, 45,000 children were killed and 90,000 parents suffered a kind of slow, living death. Isn’t it bizarre that most people rarely talk about that monster? They sit around worrying about the possible effects of nudity and early sex play instead. Videos about the Jaycee case on YouTube have 100 times as many views and comments as videos about children with cancer. When a child’s prognosis is TERMINAL, she can’t even be encouraged to enjoy sex play with other terminal patients because hysterical laws define child sex “abuse” so broadly they include everything and don’t allow exceptions.
The state of California spends millions of dollars every year confining sex offenders who have already finished serving their sentences. Is the state afraid that putting sex offenders against children in prison might actually make some sick individuals even more dangerous to society than they were before? In other words, does the prison system create monsters? Other states spend a lot of money registering sex offenders, some of whom are hardly dangerous to anyone and are even children themselves (e.g. teens exchanging nude photos of each other or having consensual sex with each other). All that money wasted on sex hysteria could be better invested in child cancer research, a need far more worthy than protecting the cherished ideal of the good girl.
Over 90% of the federal tax money spent on cancer research is for cancer in adults – not cancer in children. Big Pharma may claim they must go where the greater monetary profit is, but why isn’t our tax money spent on child cancer research? Where is all the outrage and public concern for the vast majority of child deaths and suffering that have nothing to do with sex? The mass hysteria over child sex abuse is not about protecting children from harm and suffering; it’s about protecting the pathetic primitive doctrine of the supposed sexual “innocence” of the good girl. Public service? Here is a great video for any adult with a strong stomach who is seriously interested in children’s health and safety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oljTL1iuMmY
1) Dugard, Jaycee. A Stolen Life: A Memoir. Simon and Schuster, 2011.