Man, Father, Husband, Monster.

By now the world I’m sure the world who was stunned by the Josef Fritzl, the man who shocked the world by confining his daughter to the basement for 24 years and fathering 7 by her, has heard that the ‘monster father’ has changed his plea to guilty on all counts, and accepted the court’s verdict of life imprisonment in a psychiatric hospital.

Then again, why wouldn’t he? It’s a cushy life where he’s being put, a hospital where there’s a gym, sports facilities and courses in everything from foreign languages to cooking and of course, the punch line, doctors to re-evaluated his ‘condition’ in 15 years which, in theory, if he were deemed ‘cured’ from his defense of ‘having severe combined personality disorder and a sexual disorder’ he’d be a free man again.

Both Fritzl and his lawyer has said they expected he would have to spend the rest of his life incarcerated. But still, the possibility that in 15 years time, he may still be alive and have that chance to walk a free man again, after all his crimes that have albeit have shocked many would probably have been forgotten by then, just really creeps the hell out of me.

What I find fascinating though, is that the statements from his side have all been so contradicting. First he says he believe the sex was consensual, then he says he knew it was wrong, and then as suddenly as believing the sex was not in fact rape, he ‘regrets it with all his heart’ and ‘can’t make it right anymore’. Then later in court, his lawyer says he’s a man wracked with guilt for almost 24 years when in his defense he has made a statement saying he decided to imprison his daughter Elisabeth after she ‘did not adhere to any rules any more’ when she became a teenager and ‘that is why I had to do something; I had to create a place where I could keep Elisabeth, by force if necessary, away from the outside world.’ This is his warped logical reasoning, rationalizing what he had done, not guilt. I mean this is the man who had said, ‘I was born to rape, and I held myself back for a relatively long time. I could have behaved a lot worse than locking up my daughter.’

And to think that people actually feel bad Fritzl. Who defend him, blaming it on his mental illness. Who think that ‘he is mentally ill and you are all really mean for saying such bad things,’ that ‘he needs a little medication, a lot of hugs and some alone time with school kids to set him straight.’ and that ‘to think of that poor sick man in a prison cell makes me feel ill.’ and that ‘Anyone who wants him in prison is either morbid or just doesn’t understand mental illness.’

Yes, he’s a sick man, mind twisted and warped and probably has a whole load short circuited wires somewhere in his head, I don’t doubt the possibility of that looking at his crimes and his statements and his childhood, but I read somewhere that Fritzl said that he ‘always knew during the whole 24 years that what I was doing was not right, that I must have been crazy to do such a thing’, yet ‘it became a normal occurrence to lead a second life in the basement of my house.’

I’m sorry, but maybe I’m being biased here, you know, being shocked shitless by the horrendousness of his crime, but doesn’t the statement contend the whole crazy people don’t know they’re crazy theory? And if he knew he was not right, why did he not seek medical help? And if he knew what he was doing was not right, why did he still do it? Because at the end of the day, it’s not something that could not have been helped, it’s a conscious decision, it’s a choice, and he choose to imprison, enslave and rape his daughter.

There is so much about this case that has not yet come to light and there are so many aspects and issues in this that I don’t and can’t get. Like Josef Fritzl’s wife, Elisabeth’s mother. When Fritzl locked his daughter in the basement, he told her mother that she had run off to join a cult. Then, over time, Elizabeth’s babies ‘mysteriously’ arrived on their doorstep, for Josef and his wife to raise. I find it absolutely boggling that Mrs. Fritzl went along with this idea; her daughter is who-knows-where in a cult, but manages to break free long enough to drop off her unwanted babies for her parents to look after? In what world does that make any kind of sense?

And why did she not question the locked door she was not permitted to open? A locked room she was not allowed to enter, a ‘missing’ daughter, babies just appearing on the doorstep, I mean, you’d have to completely stupid, or else very deep in denial, to not realize something fishy was going on. I’m deducing that she was either scared shitless, in on it too, or too deep into denial to see it. But for whatever the reason, now that the chapter on Josef Fritzl has been closed, I feel as though the wife now deserve some heat however much the chief investigator insists that ‘no wife would be able to accept such a thing if she had any knowledge about it.’

But among the unbearable horrors perpetrated by Josef Fritzl and the blissful ignorance of his wife, for some reason, the image that sticks with me most is of Elisabeth, aged 18, giving birth alone in a dark cellar, without any help or anesthesia and having nothing but a pair of rusty scissors and an old book on childbirth to help her. ‘Caring father’ as he was, Fritzl didn’t even bother to visit her for days after she gave birth. She must have been terrified. Under these nightmarish circumstances, it would have been understandable if she had ignored the baby or been unable to care for it. Instead, in the confines of her prison, or her ‘bunker’ as he called it, she taught that child and the others she was ‘allowed’ to keep. She taught them to read and told them about life outside. She somehow managed to love them. She somehow managed to be a mother to them.

And there are so many of really useless parents out there who abuse their children, who shoot up and drown themselves in alcohol, neglecting their children whereas she tried to love and care for hers in a tiny, damp cell devoid of the world above them and sunlight and adequate amounts of food and water.

Instead of wallowing in the repellent details of Fritzl’s behavior and debating his wife’s involvement in it, a little hypocritical even by my standards seeing as more than half this post have been just about that but anyhow, I think it’s about time we stop focusing on what a villain Fritzl is, because I think the point is well established by now no matter what the arguments are, and to consider what an extraordinary woman Elisabeth is instead. To remember how strong she is in midst of all the storms life has thrown at her. To respect how she did everything she could for her children even despite the most difficult and painful circumstances. And to be able to show up in the courtroom and confront her tormentor for almost a quarter of a century, it’s something that not any one of us could do.

I feel sorry for her, but above all, I respect her strength and as corny as this sounds, I hope she can find some peace away from the lurid gaze of the press.

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
Kahlil Gibran

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