It's been seven years since the Bay Area, and the world, were stunned by the story of Jaycee Lee Dugard, who emerged from captivity in an Antioch backyard after being kept there for 18 years by sex offender Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy, and made to bear two of the man's children, the first when she was just 14. She was kidnapped from her family's front yard in South Lake Tahoe at age 11, in 1991, and went on to survive 18 years of abuse by the Garridos, and after writing a memoir about the experience in 2011, she has written another book, Freedom: My Book of Firsts, and she appeared in an interview Friday with Diane Sawyer on 20/20 which you can watch in full here if you have a cable subscription. Dugard also appears in the new issue of People.
She seems remarkably grounded, and upbeat, as she talks about the process she's gone through to accept what happened to her and move on. And she rejects the idea that she is somehow unique in her strength or ability to survive. "I don't think there's anything inside me that isn't inside everyone else," she says.
Dugard last spoke with Sawyer in 2011, at which point the Garridos had recently pleaded guilty and her memoir was just being released. Now 36, Dugard appears to be adjusting well to normal human life, aided in part by a $20 million settlement she won six years ago from the California state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, whose lapse in adequately tracking and checking up on parolee Garrido allowed her to go unfound for nearly two decades.
In the new interview, which includes shots of her sailing in the San Francisco Bay and driving around and listening to happy tunes like A-Ha's "Take on Me" and Pharrell's "Happy," Dugard still expresses exasperation at parole officers who should have been paying closer attention to Garrido's whereabouts. "He wore a GPS tracker. You could clearly see him going into the back yard," she says. "What's the point of a GPS tracking system if you don't follow up?"
It was a UC Berkeley police officer who was ultimately her savior, after spotting Garrido on the campus with two young girls Dugard's daughters handing out religious literature and proposing a religious event on campus. That officer, Ally Jacobs, followed up and found that Garrido was a registered sex offender, and ultimately Concord authorities called Garrido in for questioning. When he appeared at the parole office in Concord, he came with Nancy, Jaycee, and the two girls, and they were all questioned separately. Though she initially exhibited signs of Stockholm syndrome and insisted Garrido was a "changed man" and "good with her kids," she now says that she's horrified by the idea that her family believes she was somehow in love with her captor.
She tells Sawyer, "It made me want to throw up. I adapted to survive my circumstances."
She also dispels the idea that the recent film Room, for which Brie Larson won an Oscar this year, was in any way based on her story. Dugard has read the book but not seen the film. "People think it's close to my story," she says. "[But] It's very different from what I went through." The movie is actually based on another, similarly brutal kidnapping and captivity story that took place in Austria, where a woman was held in a basement for 24 years but in Room it's changed to Ohio, and a backyard shed.
Also, now that she's past 35, she says, "I feel old. I feel like I've lived a lot of lifetimes." Both of her daughters are in college now one 18, the other 22. And she says that they're able to speak frankly about their life growing up with the Garridos and all that's happened since. "They lived with a crazy person for a long time. They came out of the backyard, there were ups and downs, and a lot of amazing people, and they lived their life." And she adds, "To know it was okay to laugh about Phillip and Nancy and their craziness, it helps."