Josef Fritzl, who I blogged about twice in May when the story broke, plead guilty to all charges against him related to the imprisonment and repeated rape of his daughter in a foot cellar in the family home over a period of 24 years. His plea also included the involuntary manslaughter charge for the refusal to get medical attention for his pregnant daughter that resulted in the death of one of her children (he was the father) and the subsequent burning of the baby’s corpse to hide the evidence.
Fritzl was given life in prison, perhaps as an ironic sentence meant to mirror the imprisonment and rape he forced on his own child.
People around the world continue to refer to him as a unique monster, but as I argued in May, Fritzl is not the only Austrian who kept a young girl in one of these cellars for the duration of her youth while sexually assaulting her, nor is the sexual assault of minors, women, or one’s own children unique. Instead these assaults a function of a sexist world that says women and girls have no right to bodily integrity at the hands of men’s desires for power, control, or dominance. Making Fritzly into a unique monster negates the ways in which his behavior is simply a more extreme version of the same behavior engaged in by men around the world, whether they are molesting their own children, raping their wives or girl friends or strangers, or engaging in child prostitution. Several sex abuse imprisonment scandals have rocked the U.S. in the past few years alone. Until we address the issue as systemic, there is always a chance that another Fritzl will pop up somewhere else.
In an unspeakable expression of sickness, 200 “lonely women” are reported to have sent in love letters to Fritzl saying they would willingly sleep with and comfort him. (Fritzl was married to his child’s mother the entire time he was abusing her and presumably sleeping with the child’s mother while raping her. As I said in May, both his wife and the children he did not imprison in the cellar – which include children from the incest – claim they had no idea what was going on.)
image: Fritzl, the survivor, and the cellar room. The Sydney Morning Herald. unattributed