French Woman Raped by Dad Seeks Friendship With Austrian

A French woman who was tortured and raped by her father for 28 years and has six children by him wants to be friends with an Austrian allegedly held captive for decades by her father.

Lydia Gouardo, 45, spoke out about her case Wednesday after the Austrian woman's plight became public this week with the arrest of her father.

"I would like her to be my friend. I [would] feel less alone," Gouardo said of Elisabeth Fritzl in an interview with the daily Le Parisien. "Maybe there are others like that, in villages, where people close their shutters."

Gouardo, who lives in a village some 40 miles east of Paris, began her rebirth with the death of her father in 1999. He began raping her at the age of 10, according to her lawyer, Alain Mikowski.

Her stepmother was aware and was convicted in a closed-door trial before an appeals court this month for non-denunciation of a crime and given a four-year suspended prison sentence, Mikowski said by telephone.

Mikowski said that there was a total breakdown of the judicial, police and social services systems.

Gouardo, who never attended school and is illiterate, says she was tortured by her father but not locked up. She says she fled the family home several times while she was a minor, but police kept bringing her back.

"I was afraid of contact with the outside. ... What my father did, I thought it was normal," she told Le Parisien. "I only ran away when he hit too hard."

Her children were born between 1982 and 1993. Gouardo continues to live in the family house and has a companion with whom she had two other children. It was her companion, she said, who encouraged her to file suit.

"It's a real scandal. If there had been no Austrian affair, no one would be talking," said Mikowski, the lawyer.