The details of the Cleveland kidnapping victims’ ordeal are both shocking and heartbreaking. The sheer number of years that these women endured their kidnapper, Ariel Castro, is astounding: Michelle Knight (now 32), held since 2003; Amanda Berry (now 27), taken in 2003; Gina DeJesus (now 23), taken in 2004. Now, we are hearing from them.
In a new video, the women thank all of those who have donated money to them so they can start new, relatively normal lives. Berry, who mothered Castro’s now 6-year-old child, speaks about her desire to maintain as much privacy as possible. DeJesus, as well as her parents, talk about the importance of their supporters, as well as encouraging relatives of other missing persons to rely on their own neighbors. Knight discusses the meaning of what she views as the plan for her life, which she now says is to help people who are in similar situations to her own.
I know this sounds ridiculous, and it probably isn’t a particularly popular opinion, but this video made me a little sad; it almost sounds as though these women…owe everyone something. As though this was an emergency situation they were somehow in control of or responsible for or should have remotely been in; in reality, they were terrorized, raped and assaulted for ten fucking years, and now that they’re out, I fear they feel like they may be talking to cameras before they’re ready because of donations (obviously, this is all just speculation on my part). And then again, I do understand why they would want to thank people — it’s great that human beings have been kind and generous. Still, I can’t quite pinpoint why it makes me a little extra sad, it just does, in that same way I get sad when rape survivors feel the need to thank people for believing them.
Anyway, beside my brief, possibly unwarranted distress, I thought this video was amazing. Though appearances can be deceiving when it comes to PTSD, it truly does seem like the women are doing really well. I think it is best summed up with this quote from Michelle Knight’s portion:
“I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and my head held high and my feet on the ground. Walking hand in hand with my best friend, I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation.”