At age 15, Kara Robinson was abducted at gunpoint by a serial killer from her friend’s front yard in Columbia, S.C. – and her first instinct was to survive.
Nearly 20 years later, she’s now sharing the story of her abduction in a new true-crime documentary on Oxygen and Hulu titled "Escaping Captivity: The Kara Robinson Story." It features first-hand accounts from Robinson herself, as well as her family, friends and the investigators who were involved in her case.
"I want to help people," she told Fox News about why she chose to relive her past for the special. "I realized that if I was going to do that, I had to tell my story… I wanted to be in control of it. I wanted to make sure the story was told accurately. So I reached out to my friend [kidnapping survivor and child safety activist] Elizabeth Smart. I told her this is something I wanted to do. She recommended the team that I ended up working with and they have just been so fantastic through the process."
It was 2002 when the high school student's tranquil life turned into a nightmare. After Robinson was taken by her captor in broad daylight, she was forced into a dark storage container and driven to his apartment where she was sexually assaulted repeatedly.
For 18 hours, Robinson was held against her will. Throughout the ordeal, she was determined to take note of her surroundings, memorizing as many details as she could.
"We have this survival mechanism within all of us," she explained. "And I think it’s not anything you could control. But I think my body kicked into that survival mode. For me, I wanted to make sure that I gathered as much information as possible and wait for him to be complacent."
"That was my way of fighting back," she continued. "So I do think that fight or flight mechanism that we all have was a big part of my survival. And I also think – and I still am – a very strong-willed person. I did not want him to get the better of me."
Robinson managed to free herself from her bindings while the man who took her fell asleep. She fled and headed straight to a car in a parking lot. She pleaded with the people inside to take her directly to police.
"It took a while for the relief to kick in," she admitted. "Because my captor did run [after my escape]… So it was a slow process. But I really just wanted my life to get back to normal. I didn’t want anybody to treat me differently. The way I dealt with things was to just turn off all of my emotions. I didn’t have an emotional connection to this thing that had happened to me. I just wanted everybody to kind of forget it, too."
"I think one of the biggest things that I faced was people assuming they knew how I felt or how I needed to heal," Robinson shared. "… My biggest long-term effect of my trauma was the dissociation… I was shutting down my emotions and I wasn’t feeling things… I’ve started to dismantle that."
After Robinson escaped, her abductor fled to Sarasota, Fla. But thanks to her testimony, as well as a tip from his own sister, police were able to track him down. After being surrounded by law enforcement authorities, Richard Evonitz took his life at age 38.
Evidence found his apartment linked Evonitz to the abductions and murders of three Spotsylvania County, Va., girls – Sofia Silva, 16; Kristin Lisk, 15; and her sister Kati Lisk, 12. Notes discovered by investigators signaled that Evonitz already had his eye on other potential victims. Those notes contained the addresses of two other young girls, as well as descriptions of them.
The documentary revealed that Robinson was angry Evonitz committed suicide because she wanted to face him in court.
"I wanted him to know that I outsmarted him," she explained. "I wanted him to know that in choosing me, I was not going to be his intended victim. He was the kind of offender who would stalk people. I was not in my normal place in my normal time, so I wasn’t an intended victim. So I wanted him to know that choosing me, his victim of opportunity, was the biggest mistake that he could have ever made."
"I was a little angry about that," said Robinson. "My feelings have gone back and forth over the years to feeling relief that he killed himself because I never had to go to trial. I never had to sit in a courtroom and talk about all the details of what happened to me. I never have to worry about him getting out or anything like that.
"But I’m still angry in a lot of ways for different reasons. I’m angry now because I have a feeling he is responsible for other crimes. It’s now going to be very difficult to identify him as the person responsible for those crimes. And I think that we would have been able to link him to some things if it were not for the fact that he killed himself."
But Robinson still wanted to find a way and help others. In 2010, she graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, WISTV.com reported. She also began working with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department as a school resource officer. Today the married mother of two is active on TikTok where she hopes to uplift other survivors.
"… Whenever an offender chooses a victim, they often choose someone who doesn’t look like they’re going to put up a fight, so to speak," she said. "There are different ways that we can carry ourselves, making eye contact with people. When you’re walking, don’t be distracted and observe your surroundings… But realistically, a stranger kidnapping or a stranger assault is much more infrequent than someone we know. I am very passionate about helping people assess and maintain healthy boundaries."
Looking back, Robinson said her story of survival is one of hope.
"Even the negative things that happen to us, we get to choose if that’s something that’s going to define us, or if it’s something that’s going to refine us," she said. "It’s about choosing your path forward, taking that power back into your own hands and taking your life back."
"Escaping Captivity: The Kara Robinson Story" airs Friday, October 15 at 10 a.m. ET on Oxygen. The special is also available for streaming on Hulu.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.