Rawson, who lives in Michigan with her husband, two children and two cats, according to her biography, wrote a book about her life growing up as Rader’s daughter before and after his crimes were discovered.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rawson Said Her Childhood Was Mostly Normal
In interviews, Rawson has said that her childhood was fairly normal. “We were pretty much an all-American family,” she told a CTV News reporter, describing how he was mostly a good father and as a family, they would attend church every Sunday.
Growing up, Rawson said Rader was very protective, CBC Radio reported. She said he taught her to make people prove who they were by showing their identification, be wary of strangers and hold her keys between her fingers while walking alone at night.
She also said that he helped her build a treehouse and taught her outdoor survival skills, according to CBC Radio. “We camped, we fished, we hiked, I walked the dog with him,” she said in her CTV News interview.
However, Rawson said that her father also occasionally showed his more sinister side:
In hindsight, now, we can see where he had flashes of anger, he was controlling, he could be verbally abusive at times and there were two incidents of physical violence against my brother when he was older. I’m afraid my family dismissed it and just thought that was the worse we would ever have from my father. And we didn’t really ever address it or talk about it.
Rader waited months and sometimes years in between murders, which confounded authorities and after 1991, led them to think he was no longer active until he began sending taunting letters to police in 2004. Rawson told The Star that she now sees how he had tried to control his impulses by keeping busy:
He liked to do hobbies because it kept him out of trouble. He turned my bedroom into a nursery for plants when I was 3, and I’d sleep with my brother in the bunk bed. I was so annoyed with my dad. But now you realize, that kept him out of trouble. He was trying to stop. …So it was plants — or murder. Later, it was stamps … We had hundreds of stamps in tubs.
2. Rawson Was 26 When She Learned That Her Father Was A Serial Killer
Rawson said she learned the news about her father on February 25, 2005, from a man who had been parked outside her apartment in Farmington, Michigan for an hour, CBC Radio reported.
When he came to the door and announced that he was an FBI agent, a suspicious Rawson asked to see his ID, CBC Radio reported. After she let him in, she was standing in the kitchen staring at a chocolate bundt cake when the agent told her that her father — a stamp collecting Cub Scout leader — had been arrested in Kansas and was accused of being the serial killer, BTK.
Rawson told Esquire that the news came as a shock:
My mom and I have both said, early on, if we had known, we would’ve gone screaming out the door, running to the police. It’s not like you’re going to sit there and make dinner for the guy after finding out he’s murdered 10 people. [We] didn’t know we were living with a psychopath. They’re really good at hiding… I mean, my mom lived with him for 34 years, and 90, 95 percent of the time, he was a good, loving father and husband.
She told the magazine that the last time she saw her father was during the holidays, when she gave him a hug and inhaled the scent of Old Spice. After the agent left the home, Rawson said she took down a family photo of him that had been on their wall and stored it in her closet because she couldn’t bear to look at her father.
3. Rawson Said Writing A Book Was Part Of Her Healing Process
Rawson’s book, “A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story Of Faith, Love, And Overcoming,” was published in January 2019, representing what she said was the culmination of years of therapy and recovery. Rawson told Detroit News that she struggled to write the book and especially think about who her father was, as both the man she knew and the killer terrorizing Wichita. As books piled up in her living room, Rawson wrote in a Facebook post that she became overwhelmed after opening one of the boxes. “Seeing years of hard, tooth and nail scraping work finally in my hands brought me to tears,” she wrote.
However, Rawson has also said that writing the book was cathartic for her; talking about it has helped heal me in a way that nothing else could, Rawson said in a video trailer about the book. She has said on her website that she wrote the book to help “all who suffer from unhealed wounds or the crippling effects of violence, betrayal, and anger” forgive “the unforgivable.”
Rawson told Esquire that Rader wanted the book to be a joint project, which she firmly rejected. However, Rawson said that the book not only helped her, but also her family, according to ABC News. “She was proud of me, and only wished she had known how much I was suffering,” she said of her mother.
Still, some have criticized the book, saying it would bring Rader the attention he craved. The book will feed his elephantine ego by bringing attention to him, Jeff Davis, the son of one of Rader’s victims, told Detroit News.
In an interview on the Law & Crime Network, Rawson described receiving death threats. “I’m getting hit very bad by trolls: somebody said they want to put my family in a woodchipper,” she said. “I’m trying to keep being courageous and saying what I need to say.”
4. Rawson Said She Suffered PTSD
After her father’s arrest, Rawson said she heard the agent’s words playing in an unstoppable loop in her head, according to Detroit News: “Her chest frequently grew tight. She couldn’t work, couldn’t sleep. She would burst out crying in restaurants and churches,” the paper reported.
Detroit News reported that weeks before the second anniversary of the FBI visit, she started feeling nausea and stomach pains and went to the hospital. Rawson also started remembering things, like the fact that her one of her father’s victims was a woman who lived down the street that Rawson would wave to.
She was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental health condition prompted by a traumatic event and characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and invasive thoughts.
“I feel like my father imploded my family,” she told the Detroit News. “We’re not the same and we’ll never be the same.”
In fact, after his arrest, Rawson waffled between hating and loving him, defending him and believing he was BTK. When Rader complained about the lack of visits from his family and told a pastor that he had been a good man “who just did bad things,” according to The Star, Rawson grew disgusted and wrote him an angry letter:
You have had these secrets, this ‘double life’ for 30 years; we have only had knowledge of it for three months. Give us some time . . . We are trying to cope and survive . . . You lied to us, deceived us.
After she had children, Rawson stopped writing to him altogether.
5. Rawson Said Her Faith Helped Her Forgive Her Father
Rawson, a substitute teacher, graduated from Kansas State University in 2003, as shown by a photo of her standing with her father in an ABC News article. She married her college sweetheart, Darian, that same year. The two have a daughter, Emilie, in 2008 and a son, Ian, in 2011. Her engagement ring is inscribed with the words “Love never fails,” because the engraver accidentally left the “r” off — but the original passage was from a verse in Corinthians.
Rawson said her faith came from youth. “I grew up in a small Lutheran church and it was very important that my dad took us to church,” she said in her Law & Crime Network interview. She said her faith wasn’t strong until she was with her father on a dangerous hike in the Grand Canyon and that’s when, “He gave me something to hold onto,” she said.
in her Law & Crime Network interview, Rawson said she realized she needed to forgive:
Eventually what happened was I took all that pain and I internalized it even though I’d been in trauma therapy. When you internalize all that anger and hate, you basically hate yourself because you’ve tucked it inside deep yourself and you’re hurting your internal self. I was killing myself internalizing this and not talking about it. Finally, in 2012, God said, ‘we’ve got to deal with this; I asked you to forgive and we have to work on that.’
However, on a night in December 2012, she said she felt overcome with a sense of forgiveness and wrote her father in the first time in five years.