Skip to main content

To Amanda, Gina and Michelle, from a survivor

By Ronique Laquette Smith, Special to CNN
May 9, 2013 -- Updated 1410 GMT (2210 HKT)
Ronique Smith enjoys her 3rd birthday in 1972. Her happy childhood ended with her kidnapping at 4.
Ronique Smith enjoys her 3rd birthday in 1972. Her happy childhood ended with her kidnapping at 4.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ronique "Pepper" Smith was kidnapped at 4 and lived from motel to motel till 12
  • Forty years after the kidnapping, Smith acknowledges healing will last a lifetime
  • Smith says transition from captivity to freedom can be almost as hard as the kidnapping
  • Smith offers Amanda, Gina and Michelle hope, says they will overcome and even thrive

Editor's note: Ronique Laquette "Pepper" Smith is a mother and attends college in Northern California. She was kidnapped at 4-years-old by her baby sitter, escaping when she was 12.

(CNN) -- Dear Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight,

My name is Ronique Laquette Smith, and I, too, am a survivor of a kidnapping.

My sister and I were kidnapped by my baby sitter. In 1974, at the age of 4, I was forced to live like a fugitive on the run, from cheap motel to cheap motel -- sometimes sleeping in cars. I endured extreme abuse and neglect during my entire childhood. I only went to school for a few months or weeks at a time, till we would go on the run again.

Ronique Laquette Smith
Ronique Laquette Smith

I was able to get away when I was 12. My kidnapper died in 1986, when I was 16. I had a very difficult time adjusting to the normal world.

Amanda, Gina and Michelle, it is so wonderful that all of you are alive and survived your ordeal. You are very courageous. My heart is with you all. Hearing about your story, I felt it was important to share with you my journey to healing and recovery from kidnapping.

It is important that you know that you are not alone. You have the love and support of your families, your community and other kidnapping victims who were rescued or escaped. You are all survivors, and you will continue to survive.

It's been nearly 40 years since the kidnapping, and I am still healing. It will be my lifetime work. I was diagnosed with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety and have learned to manage my disorders with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, which help calm my nervous system after the trauma my body has endured.

Family joyous over DeJesus' return
Three separate cases, one rescue
Dugard: Amazing time to talk hope

Yoga helps tame my mind by using my breath to find peace and calm after many years of trauma. I also went to the Jaycee Dugard foundation for intensive reunification healing with my family last summer in 2012.

I am learning how to function in society again and most important, learning how to live again. I went back to college and should graduate in 2014.

I offer you hope on this next part of your life journey. It will not be easy, but you can overcome and even thrive. My prayers are with you and your families as you come through this horrible ordeal. I will never forget what happened to me and will never understand how or why this it had to happen -- but I cannot change the past, so I must keep going forward.

During my kidnapping, I lost my entire identity and couldn't remember my real name. I wanted to know who I really was and where my parents were. I contacted attorney Gloria Allred, and we decided to go to the media to tell my story in the hope that my parents would contact me.

That is exactly what happened. "Dateline NBC" aired my story in 2011, and 37 years after my kidnapping, my real mother found me by seeing me on the show. It was a miracle. Despite being my biological mother, she had to formally adopt me.

I believe I survived for a reason, in order to keep telling my story and document my own personal healing process. The healing process has been difficult but not impossible. Sometimes the transition from captivity to freedom can be almost as difficult as the transition from freedom to captivity. That certainly was the case for me.

I am truly grateful to be alive and to be able to share with you. I hope it helps. As you continue to come through your ordeal, just remember to take one day, one hour, one breath at a time. You strong, brave women are in my thoughts and prayers.

Peace, love and many blessings,

Ronique Laquette Smith

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ronique Laquette Smith.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT