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February 5th, 2013
10:32 AM ET

Coping after surviving an abduction: 'Alicia Project' founder Alicia Kozakiewicz on the importance of returning to 'normal'

The hostage standoff in Alabama came to an end yesterday when FBI officials say negotiations broke down with 65-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, the abductor of a five-year-old boy taken off a school bus last Tuesday. Dykes is now dead. The FBI rescued that five-year-old hostage named "Ethan" from an underground bunker in Midland City, Alabama. Ethan returns home just in time to celebrate his sixth birthday tomorrow.

Alicia Kozakiewicz is someone who has some insight into what that little boy suffered. She survived a terrifying abduction when she was 13-years-old. Now 24-years-old, she runs "The Alicia Project," an advocacy group. Alicia comes to “Starting Point” to share her experience and explain how Ethan’s parents and the community should approach him now that he has been rescued.

Alicia says she couldn’t believe she was being rescued when the FBI had come for her, but thought that they were others coming to hurt her.

“I didn't notice and I didn’t realize that I was being rescued until one of them actually turned around and I saw FBI on the back of their jackets,” Alicia says. “And I still questioned, is this real? Am I actually being rescued? Is this just a dream? And it took really until I was home with my parents to feel that.”

Alicia shares how Ethan’s family can similarly help him heal and adjust back to life. She says the key is to keep things normal.

“That’s what we have to do for this little boy. Keep certain things as normal as possible,” she says. “Things like just basic routines that he had done before..his favorite games, his favorite movies, his favorite food...just try to keep an anchor in the before. And really not equate this with this happening to him. This happened to him, it is not who he is.”

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Filed under: Abduction • Children • Crime • Survivor
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