In June 1998, Anita Wooldridge was kidnapped from her home, locked inside a metal storage cabinet, and beaten and raped for eight days until her rescue. “He wanted a girlfriend,” Wooldridge said of her captor, a convicted sex offender. “As long as I was still useful to him, he wasn’t going to kill me.”
During this time, she held onto a few things: “my faith, and praying, and thinking of my family back home, and wanting to be with them. That’s how I kept my sanity.” Her astonishing kidnapping and rescue is the subject of episode 4 of Oxygen’s Three Days to Live (Sundays at 6/7c and 9/8c), but her recovery from the trauma of that experience is a story much longer than eight days.
“Make sure you get help, now, immediately. Even if you think you don’t need it,” Wooldridge said, as advice to other people with post-traumatic stress. “I was stubborn, I didn’t want help, I didn’t want to go to therapy. When my therapist asked me ‘why [are you] here?,’ I answered, ‘because they made me.’”
“But as things slowed down and things started to fall apart, I was already established with someone,” she added. “I’m not saying every day was easy—but I had a support system. Everyone who has been through something traumatic needs a support system.”
Today, Wooldridge is a victim’s advocate, speaking frequently to church and school groups about safety and her faith. Her kidnapping is used as a case study for the FBI. And, with the help of one of her therapists, she wrote a book about her experience, a writing process she calls “absolutely” therapeutic.
“It’s a way, if I don’t want to do public speaking anymore, if I don’t want to do TV shows, that my story can continue,” she said. “Because I can’t believe I went through all this for nothing.”