On Jan. 1st, 2002, Alicia Kozakiewicz was a shy 13 year-old girl from a close-knit, loving family. Like most teenage girls, she had some struggles with a teacher, and her mother had issues about Alicia keeping her room clean.
At 13, Alicia was just a vulnerable child when she was lured into an online friendship with a 38 year-old sexual predator named, Scott Tyree. After a while, she thought he was her “one true friend.” She said he made her feel “loved, beautiful, special, and unique.”
Over a period of time, Scott Tyree convinced Alicia to meet him in person. This is when Alicia discovered that her Internet friend was actually a monster. Scott abducted Alicia, and over four straight days, she was kept in a small cage, tied to her captor’s bed, repeatedly raped, held in sex bondage paraphernalia, tortured with electricity, starved, beaten, and chained to the floor. Alicia does not remember most of what she endured, but says, “it was the first time I ever really prayed.” In addition to Alicia blocking out her trauma, she has lost most of her memory about her life prior to being abducted.
On the morning Alicia was rescued, Scott Tryee had planned to kill her. Tyree told her something like, ‘I am beginning to like you too much. When I get home, we are going for a ride.’
Miraculously for Alicia, Scott Tyree had bragged too much online about his sex slave, and someone turned him in.
On Jan. 4, 2002, the FBI stormed the Virginia townhouse and rescued Alicia. Tyree was sentenced to 19 years in prison.
When Alicia was first rescued, “she was a shell of herself,” says her mom. She has been through counseling, but Alicia thinks she needs more. Her mom agrees: “I think she’s made remarkable progress in that she’s able to stand up and speak about these things, but she’s going to carry an inner pain forever. I don’t think you can survive that kind of terror and not be scarred.”…
Her mother, Mary Kozakiewicz, was extremely concerned about her daughter putting herself back in the public eye. Media and the public at large were critical of the family in the aftermath of Alicia’s ordeal.
“She’s still very fragile,” her mother says. “You don’t just bounce back from horrific things.”
Alicia, now in her early twenties, speaks in schools across the country, but she won’t speak Tyree’s name, even during her presentations to kids. Alicia says, that if she does, she sees his face. Alicia, now a psychology major, speaks every Friday to local elementary and middle school students.
Alicia’s recovery was very difficult for her. She says the holidays are still hard on her, and she remains afraid of the dark. In Alicia’s Lesson Plan, she says that, for five years, she suffered nightmares, flashbacks, and “all kinds of unimaginable stuff.”
Alicia has a very supportive family, but part of her healing and strength comes from speaking at schools across the nation, appealing to courts and congress on the passing of Alicia’s Law, and appealing to the National State Legislature to pass the law in all 50 states.
Alicia has appeared on Oprah, as well as other media outlets to promote Alicia’s Law and Internet safety. She has also done numerous educational videos. Alicia recently won the Jefferson Award in Washington, D.C. for community service.
“I want to be a forensic psychologist and work with the same group of people that rescued me,” says Ms. Kozakiewicz, a Point Park University psychology major from Crafton Heights. “I want to rescue the child, then try to recover their soul.”
“He groomed me, and in doing so, he brainwashed me. That sounds crazy, but he did. He took apart the 13-year-old girl that I was and created this creature that he wanted me to be.”
Alicia says, “It’s really hard to sit here and talk about it. That pain will always be there.”
When I first read Alicia’s story, I was immediately struck by her grace, strength, honesty and courage, but I also saw the similarities between her horrific experience, and the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart. Like Elizabeth Smart, Alicia was shy when she was abducted as a sex slave, and she too has a very supportive, loving family. They were both very close in age, both girls were raped, tied up, threatened, and starved.
However, unlike Elizabeth, Alicia experienced many years of flashbacks, PTSD symptoms, and nightmares. When she returned home for the first time after being rescued, her mother described Alicia as being “a shell of herself.” By her late teens, Alicia still felt that she needed more therapy. Her mother says she will probably “carry an inner pain forever. I don’t think you can survive that kind of terror and not be scarred.” Alicia’s mother said her daughter was very fragile during her recovery, and as she pointed out, “You don’t just bounce back from horrific things.” She did not say that you cannot heal from it, but that you just don’t bounce right back. How true this is.
Alicia was with her abductor for four days. When she first came home, she was a “big ball of emotions.” She said, “A big problem for me was that I thought I was going to be just fine as soon as I got home again. I didn’t know I was going to keep hurting. I wasn’t all that familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder—not until this happened. The most common things became triggers, reminding me of what I had just been through—tollbooths and Coca-Cola cans for example. I am still learning what triggers me today.”
Alicia has made the decision to make her experience into a positive one, and like Elizabeth Smart has proclaimed, Alicia has not allowed it to define who she is for the rest of her life. Alicia has been a strong advocate for children, finding it extremely cathartic.
Elizabeth Smart, who was with her abductors for nine months, raped up to 1,000 times, tied to a tree, forced to watch sex acts, and threatened with death, says she never experienced any PTSD symptoms, flashbacks, or nightmares. She has stated that she had no need for therapy, and was fine when she came home.
I’m not saying anything in particular; I just find it interesting.
I feel Alicia is a true warrior. She is courageous, a leader, and a true inspiration to victims and survivors of abuse and trauma; because Alicia is real. Alicia is a person who went through living hell and survived it, only to be hit with PTSD symptoms, nightmares, and as she put it, “unimaginable stuff.” This is reality for survivors of rape and torture. This is real life survival. When it comes to trauma, death threats, rape, and torture –half of the courage comes from surviving the hell of the abuser. The other half comes from the aftermath; from courageously experiencing and living through the hell of the after-affects of trauma, rape and mental torture; all without killing yourself.
Elizabeth Smart was recently awarded $50,000 for “having had the courage to fight, the power to survive and the leadership to inspire others.” The money is part of a DVF Award from The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, “which recognizes and supports women who are using their resources, commitment and visibility to transform the lives of other women.”
I wonder how many lives Elizabeth Smart has transformed?
Ed Smart says Elizabeth, who is serving an LDS Church mission in France, will fly back to the States for the award ceremony. She will be flying back “with her mission companion.”
Ed Smart says his daughter plans on using the award money to start “The Elizabeth Smart Foundation.” The foundation will supposedly be aimed at child abuse prevention, education and promoting “radKIDS.” The foundation is also allegedly going to help with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Alicia has worked hard to educate teens on the dangers of socializing online with strangers. She has done her inspirational work while living through the hell of symptoms and triggers. She has continued to strive and survive the after-affects of her living nightmare. I would prefer to have seen Alicia get the $50,000 for the work she has done, and the work she continues to do. That’s how I feel, and I am not going to apologize for it. So don’t write me just to tell me I am being “judgmental” of Elizabeth Smart.