A horror house, a dungeon with secret chambers, where lived in captivity a family for 24 long years. A tender girl child of 18 year was lured in there on a casual pretext of carrying some stuff, then she was imprisoned leashed, handcuffed, raped and impregnated for 6 times over a period of 24 years. The devil behind this dance of horror, her own father. [Source 1]

Josef Fritzl’s daughter disappeared from home one day when she was 18. The family lodged reports with police but the search was ended when the parents received a letter from her asking them to ‘stop looking for her’. The father soon convinced the rest of the family that she has joined some religious cult and is not coming back.

It was only in April 2008 that the daughter, victim Elisabeth Fritzl, now 42, was rescued along with her 3 children. In these 24 years, she gave birth 6 times, while her elder children continued to be in captivity along with her the later borns were shifted upstairs after their father-also grand father set it all up to appear as if Elisabeth has left them at the house door step.

As bizarre as it can get, it seems there are no walls in the cellars so in the later days once the children grew up they had no choice but to witness their father-grandfather raping their mother.

Not having ever seen a ray of sunlight the children grew up to be anemic and lacked vitamin D. It was when the eldest daughter Kerstin fell too sick to be kept away from medical attention that their captor took her out of the cellar for the first time ever since she was born and took to the hospital. The Hospital authorities suspected foul play. Police were called and the captor was asked to produce the patient’s mother. Thus Elisabeth saw day light after 24 years and her sons for the first time in their life.

Once outside, Elisabeth reported to the police about her captivity and the captor was arrested. He confessed to the crime and DNA tests have established his fatherhood for all of Elisabeth’s children as alleged.

To say this is a horrific incident of mindless cruelty torture and violence is nothing but short of words. I am not sure which statuette in the world has a punishment which is in proportion to such crime. Not sure how would this family ever become normal. What would it feel for Elisabeth’s mother to have a home full of grand-children fathered by her own husband. The more you think about it the more bizarre it gets.

But I just can’t come to terms with the truth of it. The truth as established by the DNA tests, which is so much stranger and scarier than fiction. There are dots I can’t seem to connect and I can’t seem to understand how could this devil act go on for 24 long years without anybody ever suspecting anything.

Hell I can recognize patterns in the way my Gtalk friends come and go off line and I know what each one of them say or do to initiate a conversation. No matter how big or small it is, we human beings have a natural tendency of watching and recognizing patterns. But this family didn’t see any patterns or aberrations for 24 long years. Or is it that the aberrations were so obvious that they became the patterns.

How could the other members of Fritzl family not suspect this man’s continuous visits to the underground cellars. I mean shouldn’t they have asked him, “hey why do you keep going to the cellars.” If he said, “I got some work,” shouldn’t they have tried to find out after all what work is going on for 24 years? Isn’t 24 years too long a period for status quo to be maintained?

7 delivery took place without any medical assistance? Didn’t the man have to get some basic medicines, nappies, sanitary products, baby food to the cellar. Amestteton is a small town, a man shopping for child care products / medicines over and over again the local pharmacy won’t get suspicious?

In 24 years the cellars never needed to be cleaned / repaired / attended by any kind of maintenance activity? For 24 years this man kept carrying food and other household stuff (including drawing paper and colors for the children) every 2-3 days a week. That’s 2days x 52weeks x 24yrs = 2496 times carrying food inside the cellar and none from the family noticed? Theory of probability ain’t at work?

In 24 years Elisabeth didn’t try to escape? Didn’t she together with her two adult children try to physically overpower the captor, kill him beat him or something. She didn’t think of killing herself to the least?

There were 100s of other tenants living in this same house of horror. None of them noticed anything? If they did they didn’t think of investigating it further? Why are we not shown any picture or footages of Elisabeth’s sons whose life, reportedly, is so dysfunctional that they communicate with each other by a mix of word and animal sounds like growling and cooing?

The answer to all of the questions above might be a ‘No’. May be at times destiny does play such a role of being an ally of the devil. Yes, may be. But I am also repeatedly reminded of the child sexual abuse case of the Friedman father and son in 1987 in Great Neck, N.Y.

Friedmans were a perfectly happy middle class family till the day police knocked on their door to arrest Mr. Arnold Friedman an award wining, retired teacher and his 18 year old son Jesse on account of around 100s of child sexual abuse charges, the victims being students of computer classes he used to take at the basement of their residence, 17 Picadilly Road.

Andrew Jarecki’s path breaking documentary film, “Capturing the Friedman” is based upon this real incident. The film is a frustrating account of truth and representation in media. Throughout the film Andrew takes us through the entire incident, family footages before and after the incident, how each of them reacted and what followed. The way the family coped with the shame of it. The film also takes you through the evidence, interviews both the victim side and defense side, from investigators to psychologist.

At the end of it, there is only one point that Andrew makes, that you can’t ever tell what the truth is unless you are yourself the person in question. That, even in a documentary, which is nothing but factual representation of truth, what you see may not be true, at the least, you can’t be sure if it’s true. As an unbiased audience you are left with utter confusion and serious doubts both about the accusation followed by conviction and the Friedman’s innocence.

The film raises questions about the role media plays in such sexual crimes where a whole community gets involved, where once the incident is captured on television, everybody from the milkman to plumber to the accused’s ex-girlfriend’s school bell boy all seem to have a moral opinion to make, all have something more incriminating and weird to be revealed. And how media can actually play a big role in making or breaking a family’s honor.

More readings on Capturing the Friedmans. (1) (2)

The reason I compared the two cases is because I felt today media is playing a big role in the Fritzl case. As much as I want to see this man be punished with the most sever punishment possible, I also seek answers to the many questions media has not addressed.

The detailed story of House of Horror, which I told you above, is what I found from TV and web. Having myself been a part of a tragedy on which media has written extensively (my friend Kakan’s accidental death by drowning in 2006) I now know how many factual errors media commits. It was frustrating to read the wrong reporting.

So I am thinking how can I be so sure what I am reading about Fritzl family is truth and nothing but the truth. And if that is not the truth, could there be a more bizzare truth. I wonder when there is a question of a sexual aberration in a moral society, where only a certain form of sexual act is acceptable and everything else is a sin, could one form of the aberration be more acceptable by the society than the other. In this case, is it easier to accept that the father must have raped and captivated the daughter than to accept that the daughter might have consented?

There are good truths and there are bad truths but do we as a society accept both?

I have been having some discussion off line regarding this case and the points I raised. A few things came up I thought I’d add them here. The sole link to wikipedia sighted herein was not my only source behind this story. The news is all around the TV and web. And its exctly the same version of the story everywhere. Here are some more links. BBC CNN Guardian Times online

A friend said, there is no good trut or bad truth. Truth is just truth. Precisely my point. But my question – is society happy to accept truth just as it is. With so many missing links in the case, it is not very difficult for me to assume that the daughter is a part of this whole thing. She agreed to have a secret life in the dungeon and is now making it appear as rape. And the society (media being the spokeperson of society) readily accepts her side of the story, where she is a victim and passes a judement on the accused.

The man reportedly said and I quote, “Nonetheless, I am not the beast the media depicts me as. When I went into the bunker, I brought flowers for my daughter, and books and toys for the children, and I watched adventure videos with them while Elisabeth was cooking our favourite dish.” I think this could be true, but do you think the society would accept this as true? For the society, a father raping the daughter is still a more acceptable sexual aberration than the thought of a daughter giving consent to have a sexual relationship with her father.

I am not trying to make any judgment here at all. All I am saying is that how the society looks at a crime situation needs to be revisited.