If there’s anything we’ve learned from the myriad of horrifying true crime stories that have kept us up all night, it’s that nothing ever ends well for anyone involved. But there are circumstances that become the miraculous exception; those people who belong to the 1% who manage to fortuitously escape their captors and live to tell the tale.
In her upcoming independent feature film, Untold: This Is My Story (2021), Asian-American Navy veteran turned entrepreneur and filmmaker, Gina M. Garcia, recounts the traumatic events that forever changed every aspect of her life when she was abducted by a notorious kidnapper and killer at the tender age of eight.
Escaped Danger by the Skin of Her Teeth
It was a typical day in the fall of 1981, an 8-year-old Gina along with her sister, decided to spend time at a shopping mall in Orlando, Florida. As Gina was casually browsing in a bookstore as she waited for her sister to finish a conversation with another person, a man grabbed this opportunity to approach her. This stranger introduced himself as part of the security team by flashing his badge and luring her into his car by convincing her that there was a great deal of books waiting for her. What was supposed to be a fun-filled day at the mall abruptly turned into every parent’s nightmare ― losing your child to a serial kidnapper.
Garcia vividly recalled being brutally attacked and raped by the man for hours in his car, but by some stroke of luck, she was able to escape her abductor by jumping out of a moving car and running as far away as possible. This child abductor was believed to be the same man who tortured and murdered Adam Walsh, the son of John Walsh who was the host of the long-running show America’s Most Wanted (1988).
This child abductor was believed to be the same man who tortured and murdered Adam Walsh
Based on the thousands of child abduction cases in recent years, statistics have shown that 99% percent of missing children are killed within the first 24 hours, and Garcia was fortunately part of the 1% who made it out alive. As this was an extremely traumatic event for a child to process, authorities thought it would be best to change the narrative and make her believe that the haunting circumstances she envisioned were nothing but a dream. While the intention was good, this turned out to be more psychologically damaging to Garcia down the line.
Decades later, after some break-ins and hate crimes perpetrated by her previous employees, the harrowing events that transpired in her childhood came rushing back, causing her to have troubling flashbacks and distress towards the people around her. The more things got harder and heavier to manage as the years went by, Garcia decided to go to therapy where she met other female veterans who were also suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
From Survivor to Healer
The film movingly sheds light on the repercussions of sexual abuse and social issues that survivors go through as they process and heal from the traumatic events of their lives. While the man who abducted her was never brought to justice, she found solace in therapy as well as giving a voice to those who are silently suffering.
“One out of four girls and one out of seven boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18; yet, only one in three will tell. This film will enlighten people about the dark secrets of childhood sexual abuse and how keeping the abuse a secret is destructive for the individual and the individual’s whole family.”
Garcia wanted to make a huge difference in the community through the power of storytelling, so she went to film school where she learned the tricks of the trade and met mentors who inspired her to tell her life story. One, in particular, was award-winning director Patty Jenkins, the brain behind the blockbuster Wonder Woman films who encouraged her to take a leap of faith and tell her own story of survival on the big screen as she personally believes it could spark meaningful conversations about healing.
Not to mention, her commitment to helping survivors motivated her to establish a charity called ‘The Untold Project’ which specifically focuses on helping survivors of sexual PTSD trauma cope and share their experiences in a safe, loving, and positive community. She also has a book in the works that will further convey her story in detail, which is anticipated to be released later this year.
Untold: This is My Story had its world premiere on September 6th at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood as part of the Dances with Films festival line-up. You can learn more about the film and Garcia’s charity on their official website: http://www.untoldthefilm.com/
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.