Sidney Prescott from SCREAM, Laurie Strode from HALLOWEEN, and even Julie James in I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER are all household names of a certain trope in horror films. Genre fans have long worshiped the female protagonists in slasher movies who have the ultimate showdown with the killer and live to tell the tale, also known as the Final Girl.
The Final Girl in horror films were characters I grew up respecting because they did more than take off their clothes and die. Final Girls exhibited courage and wit to outsmart a killer and remain the last one standing to tell the story. But what about when the terrible crime is actual fact and not just the narrative of a movie? What about the real life final girls that have survived horrific ordeals? Recently, the murders of the Grim Sleeper have surfaced and one survivor helped put him away. This article isn’t about the “baddassery” of the women who survived these heinous crimes, but stands to shed light on women who not only endured these awful acts, but were strong enough to face these killers in trials to put them behind bars, making them the true Final Girls.
Enietra Washington is believed to be the sole survivor of the Grim Sleeper, Lonnie Franklin Jr. Franklin was tried for 10 counts of murder for the deaths of nine women and one 15 year-old girl. Washington testified against Franklin almost 27 years after the event occurred.
Franklin pulled up in his Ford Pinto right next to Washington while she walked to a friend’s house. He offered a ride repeatedly until she gave in. Franklin drove in the opposite direction of Washington’s friend’s house. He shot her and threatened to shoot again if she attempted to escape. Franklin forced himself on her as she fought to keep consciousness.
Washington repeatedly passed out and would wake up to Franklin photographing her. After she attempted a final escape, Franklin pushed her out of the car and drove off – believing she would die. Washington dragged herself to her friend’s front porch, where she bled out until her friend arrived and called for help.
A photograph of Washington was found in Franklin’s home; she was unconscious and drenched in blood with her breasts exposed in his car. Washington lost her purse during her abduction which contained her driver’s license. A year later, Franklin approached Washington outside of her home and asked if she knew his identity, but Washington couldn’t recall. Soon after Franklin left, Washington realized that he was the man who attacked her. He wasn’t caught until 2010 when he was arrested for different accounts of murder.
At 23 years old, Corazon Amurao answered the door to infamous serial killer, Richard Speck. Amurao didn’t know the stranger she let in would murder eight nursing students on the South Side of Chicago in 1966.
Speck robbed, raped, tortured, strangled, and stabbed eight women between the ages of 19-24. Amurao hid under a bed as Speck brutally assaulted her peers above her. He left the scene and forgot that she was still alive. Hours later, Amurao finally worked up the courage to emerge from her hiding spot and climbed out the window to scream for help. She vividly remembered Speck’s “Born to Raise Hell” tattoo that allowed police to identify her attacker. Speck attempted suicide by slitting his wrists, but changed his mind and showed up at a hospital where he was arrested and taken into custody.
Amurao was brought to stand trail against Speck. She gave an impressive testimonial despite the horrible experience she endured and identified Speck unequivocally. The trial only lasted eight days before Speck was convicted of all eight murders and sentenced to death.
15-year-old Rhonda Williams befriended Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr. in 1973. Henley lured Williams to the house of Dean Corll, one of Houston’s most prolific serial killers with a body count of 29 boys. Williams thought she was getting into a night of partying and fun, until she woke up tied to a torture board. She discovered that Henley was one of two accomplices to Corll’s murder frenzy.
Williams kept her eyes on her friend, trusting that Henley would help her escape. Henley pointed a gun at Williams to prevent pain, but instead shot at Corll. Henley killed Corll and called the police to confess his crimes. Williams was hospitalized and jailed after accused of being a third accomplice to the murders.
Williams was let go and told to never speak of the event, though she spoke out in 2013. She still maintains a friendship with Henley despite almost being killed by him.
Sobiya Bharmal missed death by an inch in March of 2016. She went to sleep after dinner with fifteen of her family members, all in three separate rooms. Bharmal awoke to her brother, Mohammed Hasnil Anwar Warekar, slicing her sister’s throat open right next to her in bed. She fought with Warekar and pushed him out of the room, but caught a glimpse of her remaining family members slaughtered in the hallway, including her five-month-old baby.
Bharmal screamed for help and her neighbors came to her aid. Warekar committed suicide before police came to the scene. Bharmal slipped into shock, unable to cope with the loss of her daughter and family members. Eventually, she was able to give a detailed narration of that night, though Bharmal was not able to give insight on her brother’s motive.
More often than not, limelight is shed on heinous killers and our desire to understand why they commit these acts. However, I believe the focus should remain on the survivors and learning how to better equip ourselves to battle these criminals.