The "American Fritzl" Is Charged—And A Different Kind Of Damage May Be Done

Illustration for article titled The American Fritzl Is Charged—And A Different Kind Of Damage May Be Done

An Ohio man faces charges of imprisoning one child and raping another. Jeffrey York allegedly kept his large family isolated and dressed them in "19th century clothing." With notable understatement, an investigator says, "They weren't like a traditional family."

According to Newser, Jeffrey York, an Ohio father of 7, "locked one of the children in a small room used for storage for most of a year with limited access to food, water, bathroom facilities and the rest of the family." He was reported by his wife and is now charged with 19 counts, including rape of a child under the age of 13, domestic violence, aggravated menacing, child endangerment, and "gross sexual imposition."

While we don't know the details of the horrible case, one can hope that the family — now living in a safe house — are given privacy and counseling. Although the circumstances are, obviously, different, the importance of this space in horrific situations is brought home by a new memoir by Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian woman who was kidnapped and imprisoned from the ages of 10-18. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Kampusch makes it clear that one of the challenges is explaining the complexity of these situations to people who wish to reduce them to black-and-white. Clearly, they rarely she says, this was her life. While reporters might marvel that, despite her escape, she still owns the property where she was imprisoned (given to her by her abductor's mother) and allegedly carries a picture of his coffin, eight years (and Stockholm syndrome) cannot be reduced to a bad dream. Among the most moving parts of the interview is her devotion to the cacti she learned to tend while a prisoner; she has become an expert and can breed them. Of their appeal she explains,

They don't need much water. They enjoy their independence. They can defend themselves with their spikes. They like the sun, but they can tolerate the cold. They pretty much accept whatever treatment you give them, but they know their own mind. And when they flower - they are quite quite beautiful.


When encountering horror, it's always good to be reminded of human resilience, however hard-won.

Does Natascha Kampusch Miss The Man Who Kept Her Prisoner For Eight Years? She Is Afraid She Can't Answer That [Daily Mail]
'US Fritzl' Charged In Daughter Rape [Newser]

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Natascha Kampusch's healing activity of tending cacti is really reminds me of the children I've seen in in-patient psychiatric facilities who have had terrible, traumatizing experiences, and will often times lash out at other humans for not understanding...but who will also take excellent, loving care of a hurt gecko.

People like Natascha, and hopefully Jeffrey York's children and wife, were terribly victimized, but may be better labeled as "survivors", as opposed to victims.