(KUTV) After 42 years of silence, Rhonda Stapley discussed her kidnapping, rape and assault by infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy.
"Now, I'm finally ready to tell my story and share it and see if I can help other people," said Stapley.
She shared details of the Oct. 11, 1974, attack with 2News in a candid interview as part of her healing process.
"I was waiting for a city bus downtown by Liberty Park. A tan Volkswagen came by and offered me a ride and I got in," Stapley recalled. "Instead of taking me back up to campus where he told me he was going to take me, we ended up in Big Cottonwood Canyon, and I was assaulted. I didn't tell anyone for 40 years. I felt shame."
Stapley said the encounter started like any other casual ride.
"I said, 'My name is Rhonda, and I'm a first-year pharmacy student.' And he said, 'My name is Ted, and I'm a first-year law student. It didn't seem scary or wrong. He just seemed like a fellow college student," said Stapley. "There was nothing alarming at all about him."
Bundy started polite conversation with Stapley. As they drove into the canyon, Stapley said she thought the evening would progress into a consensual romantic encounter. She was wrong.
"I thought he was going to kiss me, and instead he said, 'You know what? I'm going to kill you.' And then he started strangling me."
He kept her at the canyon for hours, she said, suffocating and raping her until she was on the brink of death.
"He did that several times," she recalled. "Revive me and choke me again."
After hours of assault and torture, she said, Bundy turned his back on a barely conscious Stapley. That's when she made her escape.
"And I was able to run. And then I tripped and fell into a mountain river that swept me away from my attacker and saved my life."
The, she said, she hiked 10 miles back to her dorm at the University of Utah.
"I bathed and just decided never to tell anybody," said Stapley. "I was afraid that people would treat me differently if they knew what happened. I wanted to put it behind me and get on with my life, pretend it never happened."
During that time, Stapley, like many other victims of post traumatic stress disorder, turned to routine exercise to reduce her anxiety and depression.
"I would get up in the middle of the night and just need to run," she said. "And my roommates would just say, 'It's dangerous out there, girls are disappearing. You can't go out there by yourself.' Sometimes, we'd run until all night until daylight."
Bundy, who was executed in 1989, admitted to killing more than 30 women, but some biographers believe he killed as many as 100.
An estimated 80 percent of rape victims never come forward. It took Stapley 37 years before she shared her story.
"I kind of felt all along that I couldn't be the only person that escaped from him.," she said. "There had to be other people."
She found a woman in Florida who said she also survived an attack by Bundy, and the two began exchanging emails online.
"I thought I needed to find someone I could identify with, and I found this girl."
Under advisement from her pen pal, Stapley underwent treatment for her trauma, got married and now has two daughters.
"[I'm] no longer having nightmares and flashbacks and insomnia and numbness."
As part of her recovery, she decided to write a book about her experience surviving Bundy's attack.
"Those emotions were kind of a scrambled mess," she said. "By writing it down, it forced me to not only look at what happened, but to organize those indescribable emotions."
Stapley said she hopes her written work will help others suffering from traumatic relationships.
"Maybe by my coming forward, I can help one or two other people work through their traumas," she said.
You can pre-order her book, I Survived Ted Bundy, online or through Amazon.com.
Stapley hopes to continue the healing process as an advocate for victims' rights.
"If something happens, it's not your fault. You didn't ask for it," she wants victims to know. "There's no reason for shame, there's no reason for guilt."
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