- BBC News World
In 2002, a 15-year-old teenager was kidnapped by a gunman in South Carolina, United States.
Kara Chamberlain was held captive for 18 hours, during which time she was drugged and sexually abused.
But he managed to escape from his kidnapper who – later discovered the police – was linked the murder of at least three other people in the state of Virginia.
Today Kara is a mother of two, lecturing and using social media to educate others about her experience and how to understand the trauma that situations like hers can cause.
In anticipation of a documentary on her story due out this year, Kara spoke to the BBC about her abduction and why she wants to change the way we process and deal with the emotional shocks that we all experience in our lives.
In June 2002, Kara Chamberlain was at a friend’s home in Columbia, South Carolina. “We were getting ready to go to a lake for the day. I volunteered to water my friend’s flowers while she was taking a shower,” Chamberlain told the BBC.
When I was out in the garden, suddenly a unknown man he drove a car to the entrance of the house, got out and approached him.
She said she had some brochures that she wanted to distribute and asked if she could give them to her parents, or her friend’s parents in this case.
It was Richard Evonitz, a 38-year-old ex-seaman who had moved to South Carolina a few years ago. He pulled out a gun and pointed it at the young woman.
The minute the gun hit my neck I knew, ‘I’m a tiny, 15-year-old, this is a grown man, I can’t defend myself against him. What is my best alternative? ‘”
“When I found myself in that situation I had an escape plan“Kara told the BBC.” The minute the gun hit my neck I knew, ‘I’m a tiny, 15-year-old girl, this is a grown man, I can’t defend myself against him. What is my best alternative? ‘”
He carried her with a gun to the passenger door and forced her into a container he had in the back seat and left in the car with her inside.
Once at her apartment, Evonitz tied Kara to a bed, gave her drugs, and raped her. Had it captivates for 18 hours until, finally, he managed to escape the next morning while his kidnapper slept.
“I loosened the ties around my wrists and I was able to squeeze out of bed where he was sleeping next to me and walked out the door,” she recounted.
“I ran into a car going through the apartment complex parking lot and ran right in front of me with the handcuffs still hanging from one of my wrists.”
She told the men in the car that she had been kidnapped and asked them to take her to the authorities.
After the complaint and description of the events by Kara Chamberlain, the police went to the suspect’s apartment, but he had already escaped.
They launched a search operation and a few days later they tracked him down to Saratosa, Florida, where when seeing surrounded, Evonitz took his own life.
However, when they began an investigation into the subject, they discovered among his belongings evidence that indicated that this case perhaps went much further than they imagined.
To begin, they discovered that Evonitz had a history of sexual assault. After submitting several items found in the apartment to DNA tests, he was linked to at least three murders in the state of Virginia that followed a similar pattern.
One was in September 1996, when 16-year-old Sofía Silva was abducted from the front yard of her home in Spotsylvania, Virginia, and her decomposed body was found a month later in a neighboring county near a ravine.
Then, in May 1997, Evonitz kidnapped sisters Kristin and Kati Lisk, ages 15 and 12, in front of their school garden. After sexually assaulting them, he strangled them and dumped their bodies in a river where they were found five days later.
Forensic evidence was confirmed in August 2002 by the Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office. But the authorities are sure that Evonitz was guilty of several other cases of rape, sexual abuse and murder.
Recovery, motivation and dedication
Surviving a serious killer motivated Kara not only to recover emotionally from the aftermath of her difficult experience. but to help other people who have suffered a similar trauma.
In 2003, he began working in victim assistance and the DNA lab for the county Sheriff’s Department where he lived, a job he continued throughout his college years.
After graduation, he entered the police academy where he devoted himself to investigating cases of sexual assault and child abuse.
Later, already with two children, Kara Chamberlain set out to pursue a career motivational speeches with the idea of sharing his story and inspiring other survivors.
“I have these great aspirations of what I can do with conversations about emotions and trauma and what is this human experience of going through difficult times,” he explained to the BBC.
Through social networks, in particular your accounts on TikTok e Instagram under identification @kararobinsonchamberlain has found a way to reach hundreds of thousands with educational, informative and motivational messages.
I hate that we have to impose the responsibility of protecting ourselves, but until society changes, that’s the way it is. “
They ask what can be improved to prevent sexual harassment and abuse, how to support victims, empower survivors, address what is called the “secondary trauma” that affects families, friends and others who are connected to the victims.
“Statistics show that a rape, kidnapping or assault by a stranger is really rare,” notes Chamberlain. Usually it is someone the victim knows, so he advocates being aware of the environment and uncomfortable situations as well as imposing limits that can be very beneficial for personal protection.
“I hate that we have to impose the responsibility of protecting ourselves, but until society changes, that’s the way things are,” he stresses.
His messages on the networks include advice on diet, fashion and exercise as modes of therapy, also parenting and life as a couple, but the main topic is face directly, openly, the emotions produced by a traumatic experience regardless of whether they are “negative”.
“I passionately believe in making room for all feelings. It’s okay to say ‘I’m having a bad day.’ That doesn’t mean you’re not grateful for the wonderful things you have. Those are not exclusive to each other.” Kara Chamberlain expressed.
“Happiness and gratitude and having a bad day or being angry do not exist in two different spaces. They can coexist,” he says.
With his motivational talks and messages on social networks, he seeks to do what has been done around race, around gender and sexuality: change the way we talk about it.
“Difficult things are going to happen to you in your life. Difficult things happen to all of us,” he says, but you have to “know that just because bad things happen, they don’t have to define your life.”
“They may well define where you are leading your life, but they don’t have to define who you are.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.