Paparazzi’s Prying Eyes

Natascha Kampusch: International Media Can’t Leave Her Alone

News | Margaret Childs | October 2006

After weeks of obsessive coverage of Natascha Kampusch’s every move, the world has calmed down, or so it seemed. On September 27, however, a Spanish television team was seen harassing Kampusch and her father while they were taking a walk through Vienna’s First District. Push came to shove and both the father and one of the Spaniards were injured. What is the media hungry for?

Natascha Kampusch’s first television interview was the most watched television show in Austria’s history. All together 2.7 Million viewers saw the show Thema Spezial on ORF and RTL on the evening of Sept. 6.  According to a survey by Oekonsult, 93.5% of Austrians agree with the 18-year-old’s decision to go public.

Some however are still not satisfied. What was missing?

The sex.

Every press conference from day one onwards was peppered with questions about sexual abuse, rape and pornography.  It was, however, very important to Kampusch that her doctors and consultants reveal nothing "intimate" to the press. Many journalists then decided either, like the aforementioned Spaniards, to continuing hounding Kampusch, or to follow the investigations at Priklopil’s house to find out more about the sexual side of the kidnapper-victim relationship.

Then on Oct. 4, the German magazine Stern reported that police had found Priklopil’s Laptop, containing erased photo and film material that is supposed to be recordings of sex games with his victim. Police are now trying to reconstruct the files.

Stern also reported that Priklopil was a member of the S&M scene and that he took Natascha Kampusch with him to meetings. They report that she was handcuffed and beaten and that other people may also have been involved.

None of this has been verified by the Austrian police. Kampusch has also made very clear, both in interviews and through her media consultant Dietmar Ecker that she will not sell film or book rights and that she is planning to write her own book about her eight years in captivity.

The more important issue, however, is her own personal progress in making a real life out of her fragmented past. This is a process that will, as we know from the extensive psychological coverage of her case, be difficult and could take many years. Although the Austrian press has shown remarkable restraint and retreated from the story – now doing little more than publishing her plans and fan mail – many foreign reporters feel there’s still a story to be told.

The events of her escape have been reported on and the interview has been sold. The victim is safe, and the only story left to tell is her own, which she has promised to do in the course of time. At the moment, though, she seems more interested in helping other victims.  At 18, she has the responsibility of managing a significant cash flow from a variety of sources, including Priklopil’s assets, the money donated for her support and her media income. The donations she wants to place in a Natascha Kampusch Foundation for social welfare projects, in particular against hunger and to help kidnapping victims.

"She made very clear that she doesn’t want to use one cent of the money for herself," said her attorney Gerald Ganzger. "Miss Kampusch wants to use her fame to help people that have suffered a similar fate."  The proceeds from her interviews alone will ensure her personal financial security, Ganziger said. Kampusch wants ownership of the kidnapper’s house, although she emphasizes that she does not wish to infringe on his mother’s rights as legal owner of the house. "Principally, Kampusch wants to ensure that the house doesn’t become a tourist attraction," said Ganzger.

To the question of Natascha’s future, Prof. Max Friedrich, her psychological advisor is very candid. "I don’t know any comparable case…Specialists will be necessary who can help her mature into, if not a healthy woman, at least a woman who, in the course of time, can get over this."

And in that process, it is hard to imagine a part for the paparazzi.

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    the vienna review October 2006