Jaycee Dugard

A Stolen Life

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A Stolen Life Summary

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A Stolen Life is a personal memoir by Jaycee Dugard recounting her time spent being held captive by Phillip and Nancy Garrido. Dugard was just eleven years old when she was stun-gunned and thrown into the back seat of the Garrido’s car. She wouldn’t be seen again until eighteen years later, all the while forced to endure sexual abuse and life in handcuffs. After experiencing a lifetime of trauma, Dugard escaped her captors and has written this book detailing her experience from when she was first kidnapped up until the present day.

The nightmare began on June 10, 1991, in a small community near Lake Tahoe. Jaycee Dugard is walking to the school bus when a strange vehicle approaches her. A man she doesn’t know sticks his hand out of the window and uses his stun-gun on her; then, taking her incapacitated body, puts her into the back seat of his car. He covers her with a blanket and she soon loses consciousness.

When Dugard wakes up, she is in the man’s house in Antioch, California. He instructs her to take a shower, and accompanying her as she does so, he shaves all of her body hair. He then wraps her in a towel before leading her outside to the backyard and then into a small hidden room, where he handcuffs her before closing the door, leaving her in the dark all alone.

Dugard is provided with one meal a day and a bucket to use as a toilet. Her only human contact is with Garrido who decides that Dugard is to be his sex slave, and, after a week in captivity, he rapes her for the first time. Dugard continues to be forced to perform sexual acts on Garrido against her will. She describes how Garrido would go on days-long binges of crystal meth during which he would accost Dugard in his drug-induced stupor and force her to act out his depraved sexual fantasies. It was later found out that Garrido had serious psychotic problems such as pedophilia and frequent hallucinations where he would claim to be communicating with angels. He even went so far as to try to establish a church based on his own perceived ability to communicate psychically with like-minded people.

Dugard endures year after year of hardship, confined to Garrido’s backyard music studio. She spends this time paralyzed with fear and sadness, numbed to the core with boredom. Over time, she gradually earns more trust from Garrido and with it, more freedoms, but there were years where she was confined to a couple of rooms without any interaction with the outside world. Subject to constant verbal and sexual abuse from such a young age, Dugard’s view of the world is warped, but still, she holds onto the hope of seeing her mother and her sister again.

Garrido’s wife Nancy is entirely aware of what her husband is up to but chooses to do nothing about it, instead, exhibiting jealousy for the attention the young rape victim they have kidnapped receives from her own husband.

A few years into her time in captivity, Dugard becomes pregnant for the first time. She is only fourteen years old. They refuse to take her to the hospital for fear of being found out, and so she must deliver the baby right there in the Garrido’s backyard. She gives birth to a baby girl in the music studio. Dugard gets pregnant a second time in 1997 at seventeen years old, giving birth to another baby girl. The three of them spend the next years living in a tent in Garrido’s backyard, going completely unnoticed.

Dugard was so broken down from the abuse and mistreatment she received from Garrido that she did not even contemplate attempting to escape. For years, she lived in constant fear for her life and that of her children. Once her babies were born, she felt a natural duty to protect them, and that became her main focus rather than reuniting with her own family. With the company of her girls, Dugard felt less alone, and it ignited a new sense of hope within her that life could be good again. The girls grew up believing that their mother was their sister; they called her Allissa.

It was not until 2009 that Dugard was rescued from the terror of her life. Garrido’s mental health had deteriorated to the point that he had gone to a local FBI office in an attempt to convince them of his super-human telekinetic powers. The FBI investigated Garrido, finding Dugard living in his backyard and managing to figure out who she was. Phillip confessed to the kidnapping.

Since her return home, Dugard has been making strides in her own recovery process, seeing a therapist to work through the trauma she experienced over the years. She has set up a foundation to help other victims get the help that they need.