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Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014

News

Dallas Morning News: Victim's recovery in 1991 kidnapping case could take years

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Benedict Carey, The New York Times 

Jaycee Dugard has suffered sexual abuse, neglect and emotional manipulation to an extent hard to imagine, according to the charges in the case involving her abduction.

But therapists say the biggest challenge facing Dugard, who was found alive last week after 18 years in captivity, may be switching families.

"Her captor was her primary relationship, and the father of her two children, and at some level separation may be difficult for all of them," said Douglas Goldsmith, executive director of the Children's Center in Salt Lake City. Goldsmith added that any therapy "has to be mindful that there are three victims, not one, and that they will be entering a new life together."

About two-thirds of children who are kidnapped or abused suffer lingering mental problems. Given the information available so far, experts say Dugard and her children face an unusually complex task.

Her stepfather, Carl Probyn, says she has already expressed guilt that she bonded with the man who kidnapped her when she was 11. She and her children will have to learn to connect with and trust her first family, the one from which she was taken in 1991.

Therapists say Dugard's transition to a new life is likely to take some time, probably years.

Shawn Hornbeck, abducted in Missouri at age 11 in 2002 and held captive for four years, told reporters nearly two years after being freed that he was still learning to cope with the emotional effects.

The main challenge in all such cases, experts say, is breaking the bond with the captor and abuser.

Once victims have shaken the influence of a perpetrator and re-established trust with loved ones, they can better learn through therapy how to ease the impact of their ordeal, said John Fairbank, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at Duke and co-director of the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress.

The most rigorously tested therapy is called trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. In weekly sessions over three to four months, people learn how to examine and refute assumptions about their ordeal. One of the most common of these is "I can't trust anyone anymore." Another is "It's my fault I didn't resist more."

Finally, victims often work with the therapist to build a narrative, oral or written, of the entire ordeal, then file it as a chapter of their lives rather than the entire story.

"That she managed to survive for so long suggests that she might do well in the years to come," said Dr. Judith Cohen, medical director of the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.

To read more, visit the Dallas Morning News web site.

 

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