WASHINGTON, July 9, 2013 – Today, stylish in dress, a smiling Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, appeared in a 3-1/2 minute video. Earlier this year, the trio escaped from ten years of forced captivity.
It was a Thursday in May when Berry broke through her front door and yelled to neighbors for help. Upon arriving at the home, police found not only Amanda Berry but also Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and a child, the daughter of Amanda Berry and her captor.
Joy and elation were mixed with overwhelming sadness for the abducted girls, now women.
The world watched with a mixture of disbelief and stunned wonderment as the story of their captivity emerged. Everyone questioned the inhumanity of their captor and guard, Ariel Castro.
The women had disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14 (DeJesus), 16 (Berry), and 20 (Knight) years old. The owner of the home where they were found belongs to 52-year-old Ariel Castro, who has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment alleging he kidnapped them off the streets and held them captive in his two-story home.
Looking healthy and all very lovely, the women offered their thanks for the emotional and financial backing they’ve received since going, as Knight said, “through hell and back.”
Over one million dollars has been donated to the Cleveland Courage Fund to help the women in their recovery and the rebuilding of their lives.
“I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high,” Knight says.
News coverage provided few details concerning Knight immediately after the escape and rescue. Seeing her smiling, professing her faith in God and her belief in herself is nothing short of heart warming. Today she appears wearing glasses, with a cute asymmetrical cropped hair and speaking defiantly and at times, haltingly.
Knight, who authorities said had been taken captive first, displayed steely strength in saying “I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don’t want to be consumed by hatred.” Her words are a lesson in people who are better than we are ourselves.
Kathy Joseph, Knight’s attorney, said in a statement that the three women wanted to “say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world, now that two months have passed.”
On the video Amanda Berry, 27, speaks first saying “I want everyone to know how happy I am to be home, with my family, my friends.” Berry, whose images have been seen publicly since her release, has short hair with a blonde streak in it. She is a lovely woman.
“I would say ‘thank you’ for the support,” said a soft-spoken Gina DeJesus, 23, in response to prompting from a narrator. Gina is the most reticent of the women. She appears shy, possibly nervous. But her ability, as is the ability of her co-captives, to recover from the horrendous nightmare they endured is remarkable.
The video was posted at midnight Monday and in the background, those familiar with Cleveland may recognize the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and Lake Erie.
To date the women have refused media interview requests, citing their need for privacy and the desire to wait until after Castro’s trial, scheduled for next month.
“I am getting stronger each day,” Berry said. “Having my privacy has helped immensely.”
The trio wants to maintain that privacy, according to a statement from the team of lawyers and crisis management experts helping them without charge.
Castro’s trial could be delayed if the defense asks for more preparation time. Last week, a judge rejected Castro’s request to see Berry’s child, who he fathered. Castro’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the video and on whether they were concerned it might bias jurors.
In the video, the women are smiling and appear upbeat. Berry said that they are being recognized in public, “so they decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages.”
(Associated Press provided information for this report.)
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