A Ted Bundy attack survivor from 1974 is breaking her silence after suffering alone for 42 years.
Rhonda Stapley is the first to say she hates attention and did everything she could to keep her horrifying encounter with one of America’s most infamous murderers a secret, but she felt compelled to come forward.
Stapley spoke of her experience with People magazine. One of the truly lucky ones, the Ted Bundy attack survivor reveals that she went to great lengths to keep what happened to her from everyone so that her mother wouldn’t take her out of school and not have the humiliation of people talking badly about her.
When Stapley was raped by Bundy, she was a 21-year-old student at the University of Utah. She blamed herself for getting into a car with a total stranger. Stapley, now 62, was a Mormon virgin when she was attacked.
“I imagined people whispering, ‘That’s that girl who was raped,'” Stapley said. “I didn’t want attention. I still don’t.”
— People Magazine (@people) May 13, 2016
Ted Bundy offered Rhonda Stapley a ride in his Volkswagen Beetle. He introduced himself as Ted and told her of his intent to kill her. He choked Stapley repeatedly in and out of consciousness at an isolated location until she managed to escape.
She remembers the news covering other missing women in Utah and wondered if they were victims of the same man who abducted her.
In 1975, Bundy was arrested after an attempted abduction of another woman. It was then that Stapley learned his last name — “Bundy.”
The arrest brought relief to Stapley, but she also felt a sense of guilt for not speaking up; she wondered if she could have saved the lives of other Bundy victims. On the other hand, she didn’t have much to add since others had described Bundy to police. On top of that, she didn’t want the dreaded attention of having to explain away why she didn’t say something earlier.
Ted Bundy went on to kill more women after his arrest. His survivor “became quietly consumed with him,” according to the report. Stapley followed his two escapes from custody and the trials and convictions for murder that eventually led to his execution in Florida in 1989. At that point, Bundy had confessed to murdering over 30 women in seven states between 1973 and 1978.
Stapley just released the book, I Survived Ted Bundy: The Attack, Escape & PTSD That Changed My Life. Stapley shares how she moved on in her life and eventually got married, had children, and made a career as a pharmacist and inventor. She thought that she “just needed to put it away and make life like it was before and just pretend it never happened.”
In 2011, Stapley was confronted by a bullying boss over a workplace incident. His tone was unsettling, as it reminded her of Bundy’s words 37 years earlier. She says the flashbacks, nightmares, anger, and despair were traumatic enough that she finally sought help. She was faced with all kinds of PTSD symptoms, like uncontrollable crying, inability to sleep, and loss of appetite.
“I thought I was going crazy. But I knew it had to be related to the Bundy stuff, because that’s what my dreams and my nightmares and my panic attacks were about,” Stapley said.
Feeling alone in her struggle, Stapley searched online for others who could relate. An anonymous person told Stapley that she had a brief encounter with Bundy. This was a turning point in Stapley getting reprieve from her decades-long suffering. Moreover, she sought therapy and finally named her attacker as Ted Bundy.
Other avenues of therapy for Stapley was writing in a journal. She said if there was one person out there whom she would’ve liked to have read her personal memoir, it was true-crime author Ann Rule. The writer worked with Bundy at a Seattle crisis clinic at the beginning of his murderous rampages and wrote The Stranger Beside Me.
Rule’s publisher supported Stapley’s work and how she expressed the importance of healing. Rule, who died last year, wrote the forward.
Woman says she escaped Ted Bundy after getting into his car because he had ‘cute boy next door looks’ https://t.co/K0ByTu6ffp
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) May 11, 2016
Stapley has found a profound purpose in sharing this book and breaking her silence now.
“There’s no group of Ted Bundy survivors that I could sign up and join,” says Stapley. “But there are other people who have experienced trauma. They can understand not wanting to tell, and the shame and embarrassment and all those things that go along with rape.”
This brave Ted Bundy attack survivor wants people in her shoes to know that “they’re not alone” and that even though their experiences might be different than hers, there’s someone who can identify with the traumatic feelings they’re harboring deep inside.
“The crime doesn’t end when the attack ends,” Stapley said.
[Photo Credit: AP-PHOTO/HO]