Abducted for 18 years, she says she wants to dedicate her life to helping others

By Paul Chi
March 10, 2012 11:05 AM
Charles Eshelman/FilmMagic

They were simple words but resonated loudly.

“My name is Jaycee Dugard, and I want to say that because for a long time I wasn’t able to say my name and so it feels good,” the soft-spoken woman told the crowd at an awards ceremony Friday night in New York. “I am truly honored to be here tonight with these amazing women who have done and been through so much more than me.”

Dugard, 31, who had been kidnapped at age 11 and held prison for 18 years, appeared at her first public event since her ordeal.

She received the Inspiration Award at fashion designer-philanthropist Diane von Furstenberg’s DVF Awards held at the United Nations honoring women for leadership, strength and courage to transform the lives of other women.

Dugard, who had two children fathered by her kidnapper, got emotional when she thanked her mother’s unwavering support and faith.

“I have to say I felt her hope for many years and it gave me the strength to go on and live,” Dugard said. “And I did live. I have two beautiful daughters who I love with all my heart.”

Speaking about her JAYC Foundation that helps families recovering from abduction, she closed her speech by urging people to empower themselves by helping others.

“My hope is to be remembered for what I do, not to what happened to me,” she said with a smile.

Before Dugard took to the stage, Winfrey – who received the Lifetime Leadership award – said she had been eager to meet Dugard “to tell her how much her story and her life meant to me.”

Winfrey recounted Dugard’s rape and abduction saying she has “endured more than most have the capacity to even imagine” and praised her grace and determination to survive, and most importantly, her desire to help others in need.

“I am so proud of you,” said Winfrey. “You are using your courage and your strength and your power to show the world that you care.”