Joseph Fritzl, the man I posted about who kept his 18 year old daughter imprisoned for 24 years, has come under increasingly scrutiny as a potential repeat offender and/or murderer. Fritzl served 18 months in prison for rape when he was 36 years old. He held a knife to the then-24 year old woman’s throat during the attack and threatened to kill her. Two other women have come forward stating they believe Fritzl to be the man who raped or attempted to rape them, both were in their earlier 20s at the time of the attacks. He is also suspected of the rape and murder of an unidentified woman found just south of a cabin and property owned by Fritzl’s wife. Austrian law has generally allowed for records of sexual abusers to be sealed after 4 years making it possible for predators like Fritzl to roam relatively unchecked.
While Fritzl’s other children continue to claim they had no idea what happened to Elisabeth, renters are now coming forward to say they noticed food missing from their apartments and were often charged large electric bills that did not reflect their electric usage. They now believe Fritzl was taking both to support Elisabeth and the three children locked in the cellar.
These stories, while important, have already begun to make Fritzl into an exception rather than highlighting for many how various Austrian laws and failed investigations help lend to the success of these kinds of long term predators. At the same time, several parties have introduced new legislation around sexual abuse detection, prevention, and the handling of sexual predators. Interestingly, the Times reports that regular check ups of children with SA indicators at the forefront has been rejected as “an absurdity.” These legal steps, though reactionary, will hopefully move toward protecting women and girls rather than just making Fritzl into a monster we can lock away and then forget about all the others like him out there.
Natascha Kampuch, the adult survivor of an 8 year imprisonment in a cellar from the time she was 10, has come forward to offer her own story and counsel to Elisabeth’s 6 living children. As someone held as a child she believes her own perspective on the captivity will be particularly useful to the children. She also wants to show them that you can heal from such an ordeal, as she has done. Her strength and support is one of the many important counternarratives in this story that has received little coverage.
Elisabeth was recently reunited with all of them after they had initially been taken into custody for checkups and interviews.