The three young women who escaped two months ago from a Cleveland home where they had been held captive for a decade broke their silence in a video released on YouTube late Monday night.
In the video filmed July 2, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight thanked the public for the outpouring of support, love, and kindness they’ve received from family, friends, and strangers alike. The three women were between the ages of 14 and 20 when each had separately gone missing starting in 2002.
“I’m getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely,” Berry said. “I ask that everyone continues to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life.”
DeJesus thanked the many people who’ve donated to the victims courage support fund. Her mother, Nancy Ruiz, also appeared in the video, specifically thanking her neighbors, “every single one, they know who they are,” for helping to rescue her daughter and her fellow captors.
“Parents in general that does have a loved one missing,” Ruiz said. “Please do me one big favor, count on your neighbors. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help.”
“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, and my feet firmly on the ground,” Knight said. “Walking hand and hand with my best friend, I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation.”
“God has a plan for all of us. The plan that he gave me was to help others that have been in the same situations I have been,” she added. “Thank you for all your prayers. I’m looking forward to my brand new life.”
Their alleged captor, Ariel Castro, has pleaded not guilty to 329 charges that include kidnapping, multiple counts of rape and a murder charge for allegedly inducing Knight to miscarry a pregnancy. Castro was found mentally competent to stand trial by a judge last week and is being held on $8 million bail.
Watch the full video below.