“Help me, I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for ten years. And I’m here. I’m free now!”
Those were the words spoken by Amanda Berry to the 911 operator after her escape from Ariel Castro’s Cleveland home. Amanda had been kidnapped by Castro on the day before her seventeenth birthday, and held captive by him for ten years. While finally escaping, she carried her six-year-old daughter as she crawled out of a hole kicked into the door of Castro’s house. Two more women were released from the house, leaving people all around the world wondering how Ariel Castro could treat fellow human beings like his own personal slaves.
But Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus are not the only victims of such a crime. Josef Fritzl kept his own daughter, Elisabeth, captive for 24 years, which resulted in the births of seven children. Natascha Kampusch spent 3096 days in captivity with her kidnapper Wolfgang Přiklopil until she escaped on the 23rd August 2006.
While I was researching the kidnapping cases above, I began to question everything I knew about humanity. It can be difficult to comprehend the cruelty of our own kind when reading about these crimes. Joseph Fritzl, Wolfgang Přiklopil, and Ariel Castro are truly the worst of us, and the dehumanisation of their victims is a chilling exploration into a complete lack of morality. The idea of being completely controlled by another person is a terrifying and claustrophobic thought that squarely hit many of my own worst fears.
But at the heart of it all is an incredible strength and instinct for survival. For an example of the resilience of the human spirit, we need only think of Amanda Berry escaping through a hole in a door with her daughter in her arms, or Natascha Kampusch running through gardens to escape her kidnapper while he was distracted.
And the aftermath can bring out the good in people. Elisabeth Fritzl now lives in a two storey house in a quiet village, the location of which has never been revealed. Her new community rallies around her to ensure Elisabeth’s safety and anonymity. The villagers turn journalists away and are said to be fiercely protective of her. Now she lives in this close-knit community with her children, while Josef Fritzl is incarcerated in prison. Ironically, Přikopil and Castro both preferred suicide over captivity.
Survivors are people who refuse to be broken no matter what they are forced to endure. Survivors are the people now free to leave their mark on the world. It was the stories of these survivors that drew me to this crime, and their stories will stay with me long after my research ended.
Silent Child, written by Sarah A Denzil, narrated by Golden Globe winner and Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt has been chosen as Audible’s Thriller of the Year and is out now on audible.co.uk
Silent Child by Sarah A Denzil
In the summer of 2006, Emma Price watched helplessly as her six-year-old son's red coat was fished out of the River Ouse. It was the tragic story of the year - a little boy, Aiden, wandered away from school during a terrible flood, fell into the river, and drowned. His body was never recovered. Ten years later, Emma has finally rediscovered the joy in life. She's married, pregnant, and in control again... ... until Aiden returns. Too traumatized to speak, he raises endless questions and answers none. Only his body tells the story of his decade-long disappearance. The historic broken bones and injuries cast a mere glimpse into the horrors Aiden has experienced. Aiden never drowned. Aiden was taken. As Emma attempts to reconnect with her now teenage son, she must unmask the monster who took him away from her. But who, in their tiny village, could be capable of such a crime? It's Aiden who has the answers, but he cannot tell the unspeakable.
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