Jaycee Dugard, Tererai Trent highlight resilience during presentations at Sonoma County Women in Conversation event
An abduction survivor and a fierce advocate for education — two women born on opposite sides of the globe — celebrated common threads of hope, community and resilience as they shared their stories of overcoming staggering obstacles Wednesday.
Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in Tahoe at age 11, enduring 18 years of emotional and sexual abuse in a “backyard prison” before escaping to dedicate her life to helping others. Tererai Trent, a young mother who rose from poverty and abuse in Zimbabwe, gained an education in America while raising five children and now helps other young women empower themselves with knowledge.
“Many can listen to stories of Jaycee, and look at my story … many can come to the conclusion that ‘Oh, poor Jaycee, poor Tererai, they must be victims,” Trent said. “No — she is not a victim. I am not a victim. We are part of the solution. I am a dreamer. I am the mistress of my own destiny. I refuse to let the past define who I am.”
They shared their message at the Women in Conversation event co-sponsored by The Press Democrat. It drew an estimated 1,000 attendees to Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center.
Dugard was kidnapped June 10, 1991, as she was walking to a school bus stop. It was the worst day of her life.
Her captors, Phillip and Nancy Garrido, confined her in sordid sheds in their Antioch backyard. She became a mother at 14. Her second daughter was born three years later.
It all could have shattered her, but she said she had a choice.
“First and foremost, I accept it,” said Dugard, 38. “I accept that it happened and that seems simple … but the most important thing is that I survived. It’s an important reminder for me every day. If I didn’t accept it and I chose to ignore it, I don’t think I would feel as healthy as I do today.”
Garrido was on parole for a 1988 kidnapping and rape conviction. Agents visited the home many times, but failed to investigate a compound of backyard storage sheds and tents, though neighbors reported seeing children there. What kept her alive through the barrage of torture was hope, she said.
“Hope is very powerful thing,” she said. “Even if life seems hopeless, which it did for me countless days, there was a drive in me to be OK and to get through it, especially when I became a mom myself and my two daughters relied on me. I wanted to instill the drive to survive.”
Dugard was found with her daughters in 2009. She now lives in Northern California and established the JAYC (Just Ask Yourself to Care) Foundation and wrote best-selling books about her struggles. She supports families who have experienced trauma, including abduction, provides educational programs and encourages the creation of protected spaces, what she considers refuges for healing.
Phillip Garrido was given the maximum possible sentence of 431 years to life in prison. He plead guilty to kidnapping and 13 sexual assault charges. Nancy Garrido was sentenced to 36 years to life after pleading guilty to kidnapping and rape.