Note: this article was written in July of 2010. As such, if does not contain any information on Jaycee’s story after that point.

The state of California recently agree to pay Jaycee Dugard $20 million.  This raised some eyebrows in a state suffering from staggering budget deficit.

If you’re not familiar with Dugard, I’ll give you a short recap.  Dugard was abducted from a bus stop outside her home in 1991 – in sight of her stepfather and classmates.  The stepfather gave chase on a bike, but couldn’t keep up with the car.  For the next 18 years, Dugard lived with abductors Phillip and Nancy Garrido.  She worked in their print shop and even interacted with customers. 

In 2009, authorities became suspicious of Garrido and eventually determined that the young woman living with him was Dugard and the 12 and 15 year old girls were her daughters (fathered by Garrido).

Some people feel that Dugard deserves no compensation, suggesting that she had multiple opportunities to escape over the years.  After all, she was interacting with customers in Garrido’s business – not being locked in a dungeon.  When authorities finally closed in on Garrido, Dugard maintained that she was “Alyssa” and didn’t reveal her true identity during initial questioning.  These observers wonder if Dugard stayed because she wanted to stay.

There is, however, a perfectly rational explanation for this.  Stockholm Syndrome refers to a situation where a victim begins to have positive feelings toward the captor.  The victims sometimes perceive lack of abuse (or a temporary break from abuse) as kindness.  The victim forms a strong bond with the captor and perceives the captive in a positive manner.  Many experts feel that Stockholm Syndrome results from the powerless victim adopting an attachment to the most powerful adult in their environment – similar to the attachment a baby feels for its mother. This isn’t some sort of pyschobabble – the FBI suggests that 27% of kidnapping victims suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.

If Dugard was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, she would not have been capable of simply walking away.  Physically, the opportunity would have been there, but psychologically, she would not have been able to break free.

OK, at this point hopefully you see that Dugard probably wasn’t at fault for failing to escape.  But why give her $20 million?  Most kidnapping victims don’t get $20 million as a sympathy gift from the government.

Nor is this the case with Dugard.  The settlement was reached to resolved claims that the state failed to properly supervise Phillip Garrido, who was on parole.  Authorities had made several visits to the Garrido home, but failed to question the presence of Dugard.  What was Garrido on probation for?  Kidnapping and sexual abuse – crimes that probably should have heightened the awareness of authorities.

Is the settlement too much money?  It’s definitely a lot of money, but will be whittled down by attorney fees and possible taxes.  Still, what’s left should allow Dugard to invest conservatively and provide sufficient funds for her as she works to build a new life with her daughters and the rest of her family.  Hopefully she’ll be able to take the money and live a quiet life out of the spotlight of the media.

And in other crime news …

The voting for World’s Worst Mother is over … and the winner is Aimee Louise Sword.  The Michigan woman tracked down the son that she had given up for adoption and began a sexual relationship with him.  The son was 14 at the time.  On Monday, Sword was given a sentence of nine to thirty years in prison.  I’m not sure there are words to describe how sick and twisted this is.  No only did she have a sexual relationship with the son (which, by itself, is very twisted) but she essentially stalked him to do it.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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