Kampusch book reveals torment
Vienna - In her autobiography, Austrian abductee Natascha Kampusch reveals some of the gruesome details of her eight-year ordeal, including how her tormentor made her clean the house half-naked, shaved her head and starved her.
But more than that, 3 096 Days - to be published on Wednesday - shows how Kampusch survived these experiences as a child by using her willpower and her surprising psychological and analytical skills.
Kampusch was abducted in 1998 at the age of 10 by Wolfgang Priklopil, who hid her in a dungeon under his house near Vienna until she managed to flee in August 2006. Priklopil killed himself a few hours after his victim had used an unguarded moment to free herself.
Kampusch felt certain that she would have to tolerate her ordeals until her situation was somehow resolved, she told the German Press Agency dpa in an interview in the town of Mariazell in Styria province.
"It's as if you would try and learn how to swim without an instructor, going into the water again and again to struggle. And eventually you manage by yourself," the 22-year-old said.
Her book, penned with the help of two ghost writers, makes clear that what Kampusch went through in captivity was much worse than treading water.
"Brutal kicks with the knee to my stomach and genital area (he wanted to make me kneel). Also to the lower spine. Then confinement in darkness without fresh air and food," reads a passage from her diary that she kept then and that is included in the book.
It depicts the bizarre everyday life with Priklopil, who was the only human being with whom the girl had contact. Some days, she would ask him to kiss her good night, and they would play together. At other times, he would leave her in solitude for days or beat her brutally.
Kampusch did not include any accounts of sexual assaults in her book that she penned with two ghost writers, explaining that she wanted to preserve at least some privacy.
Learning about emotions
One of her survival strategies was to make sure that her kidnapper did not feel too guilty. "So that he doesn't see himself too much as a criminal and so that his bad conscience doesn't push him into even more crime, aggression and violence," she said in the interview.
Had she not remained calm and strong all these years, the kidnapper would have become frustrated, and the situation would have escalated with a "very, very terrible outcome," she said.
Despite maintaining some control over her life during captivity, Kampusch also admitted that she yet has to regain a full sense of freedom, four years after her flight: "I try at least to feel free and I'm really still working on it."
One thing the young woman still has to learn is how to open up to people and deal with them, after being forced to focus on just herself and her kidnapper for so long.
"I still have to learn about emotions," she said. "About everything that you normally learn from a young age by living together with people."Animals
Kampusch says her experience shapes how she sees the world. She has turned into a vegetarian and hates to see animals being kept behind bars or even tamed, even though she enjoys horse riding: "It reminds me too much of what happened to me."
But despite all the past things that Kampusch still may have to work through, she is clearly focussed on the future. She has passed her secondary school exams and now wants to study more and travel.
In 10 years' time, she plans to be more balanced and have more friends.
"In any case I'll have made a lot of progress by then, I'll be happier - and I'll probably have a new hair cut," she said.
An English version of the autobiography is to follow within days of the publication of the German original.