“My name is Jaycee Dugard. I want to say that because, for a long time, I wasn’t able to say my name. So it feels good.” So said the woman, abducted at 11-years-old, freed from her captors 18 years later, in an appearance this past Friday at her very first public event.
She was feted at the DVF Awards, which are sponsored by philanthropic fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg, which honors women for leadership, strength and courage to transform the lives of other women.
It would have been absolutely understandable if, after being found alive three years ago, after being reunited with her family that never lost hope they would see her again, Dugard decided to live a quiet life, far from the madding crowd.
But the 31-year-old actually did a remarkable thing: She started up the JAYC Foundation, which helps families recovering from abduction. “My hope,” she said, after her introduction by Oprah Winfrey, “is to be remembered for what I do, not to what happened to me.”
That is amazing grace; a testament to God’s very real presence in her life.
Indeed, only a woman of grace would have told the audience at the DVF Awards, “I have two beautiful daughters who I love with all my heart.”
Those two daughters were fathered by Jaycee’s abductor, Phillip Garrido, a paroled sex offender. He kept her and the girls hidden away in a secret backyard compound at his home in Antioch,Calif.
And only the hand of God could have compelled Garrido to go out of his way, it seemed, to expose his crimes, to lead authorities to Jaycee.
Indeed, in the last few years leading up to his arrest, to Jaycee’s freedom, Garrido felt motivated to draw closer to the Almighty, to seek His grace and His mercy. That’s why the kidnapper, the sex offender went so far as to start a business, which he named “God’s Desire.”
What ultimately proved Garrido’s undoing was his repeated efforts to pass out religious literature on the University of California-Berkeleycampus. On the last attempt before his arrest, he actually showed up at the campus police office to apply for a permit with Jaycee – who identified herself as “Allissa” – and her two daughters.
Campus police were suspicious of the way the two girls, ages 15 and 11, acted, and contacted Garrido’s parole agent. The parole agent had never before seen the two girls or their mother and that’s what led to his arrest.
When I think about Jaycee’s 18-year ordeal, I am reminded of the Old Testament story of Joseph, who turned his captivity into a blessing.
As in Joseph’s case, what was meant for evil in Jaycee’s life, God meant for good.