By Alicia Kozakiewicz, Advocate & Survivor
An estimated 2,700 kids are reported missing daily in the United States. I was to become a part of this statistic in January of 2002 when, at 13, I was lured from my home by a sadistic internet predator who held me captive in his basement dungeon, chained by the neck, raped, and tortured, my degradation shared via streaming video.
Days, eons of terror and agony later, through the excellence of law enforcement and my abductor’s careless boasts online, (which ultimately led to his connection with my missing poster), law enforcement broke down the door to my prison and cut the chain from around my neck. They set me free to return to my family, my home and to my life.
There I was, the next day, national news, captured in video yet again: A slight blonde with an FBI cap perched upon my head. My smile was so wide that my braces glinted in the sun as my parents and I reveled in our reunion. A perfect all American family, traumatized, yes, but still standing strong as we walked arm in arm into our home secure in the belief that it was all over. Life would go on – not by a long shot.
I wasn’t free because my abuse didn’t end there. I was repeatedly victimized, not only by the media, but also by the public who believed what they read, word for word, and then had the gall to judge a child for being victim of such horrific events. I had somehow survived a vicious madman only to be thrown to the wolves of uneducated public opinion, as internet safety education was basically nonexistent at that point in time.
Had I been taught to safely surf the web, I might not have fallen prey to an online monster whom I believed was my friend. That is why, as soon as I found the strength, my family and I created the “Alicia Project” Internet Safety and Awareness Education program, enabling me to share my story with other children. My goal was, and is, to empower children with the knowledge to protect themselves online.
My days were filled with symptoms of PTSD and intense flashbacks. Not surprisingly, friends became non-existent. I felt alone and damaged. My future seemed so bleak that at times it was hard to believe that there would ever be a better tomorrow, for I developed amnesia, and increasingly, the yesterdays were disappearing. This madman had stolen my past and the universe suddenly spoke a language of which I had little experiential understanding.
Therapy was problematic in and of itself, as coercive mind control by an internet predator was a whole new field of study. Shockingly, my attorney informed me that there was to be no doctor-patient confidentiality per the Federal Courts as anything I might say was subject to subpoena. This, coupled with the onslaught of feelings and emotions upon my return which created an intense burden of misplaced guilt, may have been the greatest deterrent to my recovery. My ability to trust had also been shattered. While many of my agonizing memories were somewhat clarified, others had become fragmented and were indescribable.
Thankfully, my family held those cherished memories for me, painting with them a foreseeable future. My family was there for me day and night. They never allowed me to give up or think that I might fail. Ultimately, I am a survivor because we were in this together.
As a survivor, I ask that those of you who hold the lives of children in your care to realize that simply because a child has been rescued does not necessarily mean that he or she is recovered. You must consider the plight of those traumatized children who will not have the kind of 24-7 support that I’ve had. Intense trauma leaves victims with a huge hole inside of them, which can be filled with drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity. But with guidance, we can instead fill that empty spot with positive attributes such as faith, goals, hard work, and a commitment to personal excellence.
My family and I have chosen to fill that void with advocacy. Through communication, education, and effective, (adequately funded) legislation, other children need not suffer as I have. I have been able to take this horrible ordeal and give it purpose.
The glory of it all is that through saving the lives of other children, I’ve found my own!
You can find more information about Alicia and other advocacy work she is doing in the field by visiting her pages on: