Five years after their harrowing decade-long suffering and trauma, three strong women who are kidnapping survivors now lead meaningful lives committed to helping those who may be in a similar situation they once were to be rescued, recovered and healed as well through various means and initiatives.
Amanda Berry managed a courageous escape from a boarded-up Cleveland home and make that crucial 911 call that led to the rescue of two other women who were kidnapped and kept in captivity like her.
The Cleveland Police immediately responded to Berry’s call who was then missing for 10 years. The officers discovered Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight who were horrifically chained, tortured and abused along Berry for 10 agony-filled, tough years.
The women’s captor, Ariel Castro, was convicted for kidnapping and raping the three women and sentenced to life in prison. He later died of suicide after he was sentenced.
The three women have since gone on their separate ways, all mightily trying to heal from the horrors and pain of what they have gone through for a decade.
They are doing admirably well. 37-year-old Knight, under the pseudonym Lilian Rose Lee, just released her second memoir, Life After Darkness. Her first memoir Finding Me became a New York Times bestseller.
Knight delves into her trauma, depression and relationships questions in her new book. A painful question bothered her for so long. She asked in her book: “The whole world had heard the story of how I had been damaged by a filthy older man. Who would ever want me after that?”
Life has rewarded her kindly. Knight has found the love of her life and married Miguel Rodriguez, whom she met through friends on Facebook. She’s on her second year of marriage with the medical courier.
She is also fulfilled in her life’s purpose, traveling the world as a public speaker. She also recently launched her foundation Lily’s Ray of Hope which supports women and girls who are victims of domestic violence, human trafficking and child abuse. Knight also initiated a partnership with specialty coffee maker 3-19 Co. to showcase her artwork and raise money for her foundation which aims to give resources so women-survivors like her can restart their lives.
The women’s evil captor, Castro, also subjected now 32-year-old Berry to another form of torture by forcing her to see news segments of people searching for her. Now, she is committed to turning that trauma into greater conviction to helping missing people in Northeast Ohio. Berry is hosting a 30-second daily news segment on Cleveland’s Fox 8 because she wants missing people to be comforted with the thought that the public is still looking for them.
Berry also partnered with her co-survivor DeJesus and they shared their story in the New York Times bestselling memoir Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland written with Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan.
Berry is also courageously raising a daughter whom she delivered while inside Castro’s home. She said she is proud of how caring her daughter is.
The youngest of the three survivors, 28-year-old DeJesus, while quietly enjoying life with her closely-knit family in the suburbs of Cleveland, has also recently joined forces with the Northeast Ohio Amber Alert Committee to help survivors and their family members. She said she wants to give back “and to help like they helped me when I came home.”
The inexplicably harrowing experience of the three women should also serve as both a challenge and a fuel for our law enforcement to further sharpen and improve investigative skills and other mechanisms to find missing people a lot faster, and bring the perpetrators of kidnapping and abuses swifter to justice.
The stories of the three courageous and resilient women offer hope and inspiration to all of humanity there’s no pain nor setback the human spirit can triumph from. They are also showing that the best gratitude for finding back their freedom and regaining their lives is to meaningfully serve and help those who are in similar trying situation they once experienced.