The three women held captive for years in a Cleveland basement are speaking out for the first time. In a video uploaded to YouTube, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight thank their supporters, and say they are happy to move on with their lives.
Berry thanks everyone who had offered the “outpouring of love and kindness” to her and her family. She goes on to say that she greatly appreciates having her life to herself now:
“I’m getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely. I ask that everyone continue to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life.”
DeJesus appears with her parents, and similar thanks all of her supporters. DeJesus’ mother thanks her community and especially her neighbors, and encourages those who are still missing loved ones to reach out for help.
Knight emphasizes her reliance on God, and her belief in God’s plan.
“I may have been to hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high and my feet firmly on the ground,” she says.
In addition to offering messages and emotional support, the public has also donated over $1 million to The Courage Fund, which was formed to benefit the three women.
Ariel Castro is accused of abducting the women between the years 2002 and 2004, when they ranged in age from 14 to 21. He kept the in a basement in his home, and raped, beat, and starved them. Berry has a 6-year-old child who was born during the captivity.
They fled the house in May after one of the women called for help after Castro forgot to lock an inside door, and then left.
Castro faces 329 criminal counts, and will next be in court on July 24th.