Amy J.L. Baker Ph.D.

Caught Between Parents

Jaycee Dugard: The Lion and the Rabbit

Jaycee Dugard allowed herself to be comforted by her abuser

Posted Dec 07, 2011

For those who don't know, Jaycee Dugard is the 11-year old girl who was kidnapped and kept for 18 years as a wife/slave of a California couple. Early in her memoir she writes about how frightened she was when Phillip and Nancy kidnapped her. She was locked in a small room with no food or clothes, terrified and alone. When Philip finally returned to the room she allowed herself to be comforted by the very person who had created terror in her in the first place. She said that she felt like the rabbit being comforted by the lion. So desperate for human contact and consolation that she felt herself melting into his warm hug, all the while knowing that he was her tormentor and prison guard. While not strictly a story of parental alienation (Jaycee does not write that Philip and Nancy convinced her that her mother no longer loved or wanted her...) there are parallels in terms of how a child can be made to become dependent on the love and approval of an abusive and manipulative parent/parent figure. There are also hints of alienation when years into the captivity, Jaycee is informed that her children should no longer call her "mother" and that they will be using that term for Nancy. It does not appear that this was a full-scale case of alienation in that Jaycee had the opportunity to be the primary caretaker of her children, balancing out whatever undermining was occurring. This memoir should be added to the reading list of anyone who wants to understand how children can become willing partners in their abuse and suffering.