A kidnapping survivor and advocate has spoken out in a viral video to explain why holidays are especially hard for her—and could be for others who’ve experienced trauma.
Alicia Kozakiewicz, 30, revealed that the holidays are especially traumatic for her as a man she met online kidnapped her on New Year’s Day 2002. She says that, even to this day, she has difficulty cooking festive meals and getting into the holiday spirit as she’s overcome by memories of the four days she was held captive and raped by a man nearly three times her age.
“It’s still hard this year. And, yes, a lot of time has passed. And, yes, it has gotten so much better,” she says in the YouTube video. “But that doesn’t make it gone. It can still be hard.”
Despite finding coping mechanisms, Kozakiewicz says she often has nightmares and suffers from PTSD during the holiday season.
“To overcome something doesn’t mean it just simply goes away. It sometimes still creeps up and then you have to overcome it again, only this time the hurdle’s just a bit smaller,” she says.
Kozakiewicz explained to the BBC in 2006 how Scott Tyree, a 38-year-old man, masqueraded online as a teen boy and groomed her nearly a year. The 13-year-old would go on to slip out of her Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home on New Year’s 202 and meet Tyree—who ultimately kidnapped her and took her to his Herndon, Virginia, home.
To overcome something doesn’t mean it just simply goes away.”
Kozakiewicz revealed that Tyree chained her up before raping her. She also told the outlet that Tyree broadcast himself abusing her and that someone who watched the video recognized her from a “Missing” poster and contacted authorities. The FBI found the teen while raiding Tyree’s home on January 4. Tyree was apprehended at his job a short time later
Tyree pleaded guilty in September 2003 to taking a girl across state lines for illegal sex and producing and transmitting a live video of a child engaged in explicit sexual conduct and was sentenced to 19 years and 7 months in prison.
Kozakiewicz has since become an advocate for internet safety and recently publically applauded Jayme Closs for her strength. Closs, 13, reportedly vanished on October 15 after her parents were found murdered at their Wisconsin home. The 13-year-old was found safe on January 10; her alleged kidnapper was taken into custody.
“For her to have the strength to do that, to know the moment to take and to take it, is so admirable,” she said during an appearance on Fox News. “I know that she’s going to be OK, because she already has that resilience, she already has that strength.”
[Featured image: Alicia Kozakiewicz/YouTube video screengrab]