BARRON (WKOW) — Stories like Jayme Closs’s are rare and endings like hers are even rarer. Still, one survivor who can relate said she wants Jayme to know she’s not alone.
Alicia Kozakiewicz joined thousands across the country in celebrating Jayme’s return Thursday night.
“I was jumping around and dancing and crying,” she said.
Kozakiewicz said the news was especially sweet, given her own history.
“The authorities told my parents that the odds were a million to one against my recovery,” she said. “That I was the exception.”
Like Jayme, Kozakiewicz was abducted at 13 from her home in Pittsburgh. A man groomed her online, kidnapped her and held her for four days as he streamed her captivity and assault online.
One person recognized her in the video and reported it to the police, then the FBI rescued her and returned her to her home.
“When something like this happens,” she said. “It seems like it’s all people know of you.”
She said that’s one of the most difficult things about cases like hers and Jayme’s. It’s hard to separate yourself from the story everyone knows about you.
Ironically, Kozakiewicz said she’s found a way to heal by using her notoriety to help children like herself. She started the Alicia Project when she was 14. The organization advocates alongside a group called Protect, for child safety laws, including “Alicia’s Law” in Wisconsin. It provides state funding for the Internet Crimes Against Children task force and allows administrative subpoena power to speed up the rescue of abducted children. It passed in 2016.
Still, she said that doesn’t mean all survivors are destined to follow the same path.
“I realize now that that was a huge part of my healing,” she said. “But it’s not a path anyone should ever be made to take.”
That’s why Kozakiewicz is asking the public to give Jayme some space. Instead she’s offering her own story and advice to those wondering what to make of everything.
“There are those instances where horrible things just happen,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take preventative measures to protect ourselves and protect our families.”
If parents are looking to speak to their children about these events, Kozakiewicz said listen first. Acknowledge their fears but remind them that these cases are rare and there are steps they can take to keep themselves safe.
Some of those tips include paying attention to what you and your children post online and make sure that you always know where your children are going, how they’re getting there and when they’re expected to be home.
As for Jayme, Kozakiewicz expects a full recovery.
“She’s going to be okay, that girl is so full of resilience and bravery,” she said. “She’s already shown so much.”