Alicia Kozakiewicz was 13-years-old when she slipped out of her parents’ house in Pittsburgh to meet “a friend” she had been chatting to online for the past six months. What happened next was a harrowing and life-changing experience that Alicia now wants others to know about in hopes of it never happening again.
The Horrifying Ordeal Alicia Kozakiewicz Went Through
Back in 2002 on New Year’s Day, Alicia slipped out of her house in between dinner and dessert. She thought she was going to say a quick hello to the person she had gotten to know online, but instead, a 38-year-old man kidnapped her and drove her away in his car.
The man took Alicia to his home in Herndon, Virginia, where he held her captive in a basement dungeon for four days. There, he chained her by the neck, sexually assaulted her, and live-streamed her torture.
“I realized, you’re much bigger than me and the time to kick and fight and scream is over. I need to do whatever I need to do to survive,” she recalled later to Oprah Winfrey. “Up until the fourth day I had done whatever I had to do to survive, no matter how painful or humiliating or disgusting, I did it,” she added on Inspiring Lives with Dr. Shellie.
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“I knew my only chance of survival was to stay alive long enough for somebody to come find me. On that fourth day he looked at me and said, ‘I’m beginning to like you too much. Tonight we’re going to go for a car ride.’ And I knew that was when he was going to kill me.”
Alicia knew her parents were looking for her and she thought of them at that moment. She also knew they loved her and wondered if they would find her in time. She also couldn’t remember the last time she had told her family she loved them and wondered if they knew how much she did.
I decided in that moment that I was going to do anything to get away, that I was going to risk my life.
How Alicia Kozakiewicz Was Rescued From an Online Predator
It was then, on that fourth day, that Alicia was rescued. Because her captor had live-streamed some of the events, an anonymous tip helped the FBI to track down the man’s location.
“These people, suddenly they were tearing apart this house,” Alicia recalled to Inside Crime. “I thought they were coming to kill me. I thought he’d sent people to kill me. I was terrified. I watched those boots, one set of them walk from one side of the bed that I was hiding under. I remember crawling out from underneath this bed. I was going to fight him.”
Alicia dragged the heavy chain and saw the barrel of a gun. At first, she thought that was it, but then she saw the bright, yellow letters on the backs of the men’s jackets: FBI. At that moment she knew she was safe.
“My dad ran up and gave me a hug,” she also told Inspiring Lives with Dr. Shellie. “Nothing could hurt me ever again because my dad wouldn’t let anything hurt me again. And that was when the nightmare was over; being in my family’s arms.”
An amazing moment for us to be reunited, something that is truly a miracle.
Why Sharing Her Story Is Important to Alicia Kozakiewicz
Alicia never wants what happened to her to happen to another young person, which is why she now spends her time speaking about internet safety, visiting schools, and sharing her story. Shortly after her kidnapping she started The Alicia Project and has been educating people on internet safety and sexual exploitation awareness ever since.
These days she’s also a highly sought-after motivational speaker and an advocate for child safety legislation. In short, she’s dedicated her life to the cause in the most inspiring way possible. “Alicia’s extraordinary life story exemplifies the strength of the human spirit’s ability to overcome adversity and to deny defeat,” reads her bio on the project’s official site.
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Over the years, Alicia has spoken about everything from safely traveling solo, to getting through the holidays when you’re facing past trauma, to putting new tools in place to fight child pornography.
“My family and I vowed that we would make a difference and help to save other children and families,” Alicia wrote in a piece for BBC News in 2016. “We realized that a factor of this ordeal was that no internet safety education was being taught in schools. After my own period of healing, at the age of 14, I began going into schools, giving presentations, and sharing my story,” she continued.
“There is so much bad in this world, so much evil, [but there is] so much more good,” she also told Fox News last year. “Good has to speak up louder.”
Why Alicia Kozakiewicz Refused to Give up Hope
There’s no question Alicia is an amazing woman who took a terrible nightmare and found a way for good to come of it. Two decades later she continues to educate people and speak out about her experiences, and who knows how many lives she’s affected and saved as a result.
It’s a strong reminder for those of us dealing with our own issues and traumas that things will get better and it’s important to share our collective experiences in order to promote understanding, healing, and change.
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And as a parent, Alicia’s story is a hard look at the importance of educating children about internet safety — especially in light of social media and addiction — and how to hopefully avoid ever being in that kind of situation. “We teach our children to wear a seatbelt, we teach them to look both ways before they cross the street,” Alica explained to Studio 10. “And the reason we do that is because it’s going to hurt them. It’s not to terrify them and make them afraid of the world, it’s to empower them.”
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Teaching children the importance of Internet safety will help them make responsible decisions.