Bee's Best

May 13, 2013

Q&A: Garrido's forensic psychologist discusses Cleveland captives

Forensic psychologist Paul G. Mattiuzzi has worked in the criminal justice system for 30 years, testifying in criminal cases across California.

Forensic psychologist Paul G. Mattiuzzi has worked in the criminal justice system for 30 years, testifying in criminal cases across California. The California State University, Sacramento, alumnus found Phillip Garrido competent to stand trial in the kidnapping of 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard in 1991, on her way to school in South Lake Tahoe. Garrido received 431 years to life for holding Dugard captive for 18 years, raping her and fathering her two children.

Mattiuzzi discusses the implications of the kidnapping-rape cases involving three Cleveland women who were kept prisoner for years in the house of a former school bus driver.

What are your impressions of the Cleveland case?

It displays such deliberate evil and the potential malignancy of the human character and the human heart. It is evil beyond human imagination. This represents an extreme in the continuum of women in abusive relationships that's gone on for centuries.

We have human trafficking and sex trafficking in California. Most missing-child cases involve domestic disputes, family matters and known persons. Stranger abductions that go unsolved are a very small percentage.

What psychological forces are in play?

These cases routinely involve pathological narcissism. Pathological narcissists believe they can do no wrong and are entitled to have all their wishes, desires and needs fulfilled. They think they're special and fail to concern themselves with the needs of others. They lack empathy. People who commit evil like this don't believe the Golden Rule applies to them.

Not all narcissists are evil killers. There are many who know the rules of society. Other kidnappers may be psychotic and have thought disorders, such as schizophrenia or the manic psychosis that sometimes comes with bipolar disorder. Garrido became psychotic.

Authorities say one of the victims got into the car of a stranger. Why does that happen?

Narcissists may be without any empathy, but they have the intuitive ability to manipulate people. You see it with con men who sell bogus investments or get people to send thousands of dollars to Nigeria. Garrido sweet-talked an earlier rape victim into the car before he was first arrested. We all hope we're not the ones who end up being the fool, but it happens to so many people. The Cleveland suspect was a bus driver used to telling young people to get into vehicles, and probably presented himself as a pretty trustworthy guy.

The girls lived for years with their captor. Is it conceivable they could have escaped sooner?

It's the same thing with a rape. A woman gets raped and the first thing people say is how hard did she fight back? In abuse situations every day, a woman comes back to the guy and people say why didn't she leave him, why didn't she get away from the guy?

Sometimes victims don't even know who they are any more and that they should run away. There's the cage you're held in that's built by the perpetrator. Then there's the cage you're held in that's built in your own mind from the terror that never ends and your need to make sense of things and create a reality that allows you to not live in fear 24 hours a day.

The kidnapper makes you feel worthless, that nobody's going to save you, that nobody thinks about you anymore. He's the person who feeds you and gives you what you need to survive. You're caught between the manipulation, the reward and the terror.

Jaycee Dugard didn't even know who she was when she was first rescued.

If a child or teen's abducted, what can they do?

You want your child to always hold on to something that reminds them of home, family and who they were and what their life was before. It can be an object or a memory. Jaycee said she would look up at the moon. Some girls keep their teddy bears.

There is nothing more important than a sense of hope, purpose and belief that something's going to change and get better. None of these victims forget their other life. It's like a multiple personality disorder generated by trauma.

About 80 to 90 percent of Holocaust survivors came out of the camps with psychological and emotional trauma. But 10 to 15 percent didn't: They had a sense of purpose, felt they could survive and it would all be worth it. Even in the dark days in their cells, they still anticipated the joy and hope that would come with their release. Cleveland survivor Amanda Berry's will hadn't been destroyed. She saw a door was unlocked, the guy was gone, grabbed her child and swung into action.

What can victims do once they're rescued?

Their lives will always be extraordinary, but they can heal. Does it take time? Yes. What's most important is probably to be reconnected with family and faith, the environments, situations, circumstances and memories that are meaningful to them. They must also cleanse the mind of terror. Jaycee went off to a ranch and had horse therapy with a group of very loving, supportive people connected to her family.

Some people think, 'If I was in the same situation I would have done otherwise; why didn't they run away?' These victims may feel guilt, but they have to understand they bear no culpability or responsibility for their victimization.

Call The Bee's Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072. Follow him on Twitter @stevemagagnini.

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