TikTok has become an unlikely pulpit for a woman to share her story of being kidnapped by a serial killer as a teenager. Kara Robinson Chamberlain has amassed over 157,000 followers on the social media platform, thanks to a collection of videos in which she shares her harrowing story and inspires others to cultivate "survivor mentality."
As she recounted to BuzzFeed, Chamberlain was just 15 years old when she was kidnapped by a man in the front yard of a friend's home. After forcing Chamberlain into his van by holding a gun to her neck, the man, Richard Evonitz, held her captive in his apartment for 18 hours, drugged her, and sexually assaulted her.
Chamberlain eventually broke free of her restraints and escaped her captor, taking her story to her local South Carolina sheriff's department. Evonitz was later discovered to be a serial killer; after he died by suicide, investigators identified him as the killer of three other young girls.
In one of her first viral TikTok videos — a clip from June entitled "cultivating survivor mentality" — Chamberlain performs one of the app's most popular dances while text boxes pop up reading, "I was kidnapped by a serial killer at 15. He would have killed me. But I escaped. I went on to SURVIVE and THRIVE. It's why I am who I am!"
Chamberlain's videos focus on how to talk to victims, advice for getting out of restraints, how her trauma has affected her as a mother of two young sons, and developing survivor mentality. Of the latter topic, she advises, "Look at what happened to you as not something that you have to overcome, but something that makes you who you are. … Look at every day as an opportunity to be stronger."
Of all Chamberlain's TikToks, two have garnered the most attention, with over 2 million views each. One is a challenge-style video in which she breathlessly recounts her kidnapping story, revealing that she eventually went on to work in victim services and law enforcement. The second describes a moment in the police academy when her instructor taught her class about a missing persons case that ended up being about Chamberlain and her captor. As she reveals in the video, Chamberlain was the only woman in her class and received a standing ovation at her graduation ceremony.
Ultimately, Chamberlain told BuzzFeed that she wants her TikTok platform to be a source of inspiration and motivation for others.
"Bad things can happen, but it's not the end of the world," she said. "We get to choose when something negative happens, do we let it destroy us or do we let it make us a stronger person?"