Claudia Herbert: The huge challenge facing Jaycee and her family


One of the biggest difficulties Jaycee Lee Dugard will face is the issue of her personality and identity. She was abducted when she was 11 so her personality at that time would have been orientated by her family. Suddenly, she was taken away from that and put into a strange environment and had to develop an adult personality away from other people.

Both physically and mentally she will have changed. Her parents will not recognise her. She will be someone completely different to the person they lost.

It will be a huge challenge for her family because they will most likely have been through the grieving process. She was away for 18 years and her family probably accepted she was dead in that time. As well as the obvious happiness at having their daughter back her parents will have to relive some very traumatic memories.

I think, eventually, Jaycee will be able to move on with her life but it won't be without a lot of therapy. In some way she will want to make up for the lost years of her life but that is not going to be possible. She needs to try to look forward, not backwards, and think about what she has now, not what she has lost.

The relationship with her children is an interesting one. Having a child in those circumstances would have been extremely traumatic, but her bond with those children will be strong because they are the only people who have gone through what she has.

Her feelings towards her captors will probably be very ambivalent. Stockholm Syndrome is a real phenomenon and part of her may feel protective, maybe even feelings of affection or love, and almost certainly dependence. But part of her will also be very angry and hostile.

There will be a lot of media attention surrounding her, but the best advice I could give Jaycee is to contain herself as much as possible. People will want to know exactly what has happened to her, but the best thing is for her to go into hiding and work through things away from the media glare.

I realise this is ironic given that she has spent the past 18 years hidden away, but there are differences. At least now it will be her own decision to hide away.

Claudia Herbert is a clinical psychologist and clinical director at the Oxford Stress and Trauma Centre