On July 9, 2013, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight –the three women who were kidnapped and brutally tortured for nine, ten, and eleven years, respectively – made their first public statements and appearances in a YouTube video that was uploaded to the channel at midnight and seen around the world. All of these women are heroes and their story -the little that has been told- is mind-bendingly horrible.
For many, Michelle Knight’s reading of her prepared statement was deeply moving. It was the longest and most expansive segment of the brief professionally shot video that was produced by a PR agency and filmed at the offices of their attorneys in Cleveland, Ohio. Knight’s statement could not have been placed anywhere but last.
The thirty-two year old had been held captive the longest. She has been the most mysterious of the three since the women resurfaced on May 6, 2013. There seemed to be only two photos of her in existence and one was from her school yearbook. No candlelight vigils were ever held for her. Unlike the other two girls, Knight was forgotten by the community.
Prior to the abduction, Knight’s life was no picnic. When she vanished in 2002 at twenty-one years of age, Knight’s mother stated that she had a mental condition that caused her to be easily confused. Knight reportedly has a cognitive impairment and her affect in the video supports this. Before the abduction, Knight became pregnant after being gang-raped in a high school bathroom. She kept the child, only to lose custody of him to child services after her mother’s abusive boyfriend injured him. Shortly after that, Castro took her.
Her family hardly bothered to look for her. No candlelight vigils were ever held. They didn’t maintain contact with the F.B.I. and moved to Florida. Consequently, Knight’s name had to be dropped from the missing person registry after the F.B.I. lost touch with the family. The family told police that Knight must have run away. When the women were rescued last May, it came out that Barbara Knight, Michelle’s mother, did not even own a photograph of her missing daughter.
When Barbara Knight showed up at the hospital last May, she was turned away because Michelle said she did not want to see her. Michelle did meet with her brother and told him how badly she wanted to reunite with her son, who had gone into foster care. During her eleven years of captivity and torture, Michelle kept a notebook that she filled with drawings of her son and herself next to him.
In a recent article in the Daily Mail, Barbara Knight, through a “family friend,” reports that she is “very hurt” by Michelle’s refusal to see her or answer any of her letters. Before arriving at the hospital last May, Barbara went on the news and announced her intention to take Michelle back to Florida before she had even spoken with her.
The “family friend” gripes about Michelle Knight’s refusal to meet with Barbara and Barbara’s new ten year old daughter, who she had brought all the way from Florida to meet Michelle.
What kind of toxic ghoul would prioritize her own needs over her daughter’s in a situation like this?
Soon, the subject of money comes up as the friend imparts that Barbara has turned down several big money offers “from TV networks” to talk about Michelle. The friend announces Barbara’s dis-interest in money, then adds that she wants to be reunited with Michelle and finally: “When she is ready to talk, it will be on her own terms.”
P.T.D. will venture that that the “family friend” is a friend that Barbara Knight has acquired since May, 2013. The friend is now soliciting offers for TV interviews.
Ms. Knight and Gina DeJesus were severely malnourished when they were freed and their physical conditions were likened to P.O.W.’s. Both have severe nerve, joint and muscle damage. Castro is said to have reserved the most frequent and sadistic beatings for Knight. He hit her in the face with weights, among other things, and shattered so many bones in her face that she had to have reconstructive surgery.
The two were treated much worse than Amanda Berry. They were kept in the basement, tethered to chains attached to the wall and dog leashes strung from the ceiling. They were starved and left in stress positions in darkness and isolation for long stretches. Castro duct taped their entire faces when he went out, leaving only an opening to breathe. When he came home, he would tear the tape off, ripping skin and hair.
Another horrifying detail: Michelle Knight told law enforcement that when she arrived in 2002, there was a fourth woman there.
Gina DeJesus is reluctant to speak with people and afraid to go outdoors or see any strangers. That’s why her statement consists only of a brief thankyou.
Only fourteen years old when Castro abducted her, DeJesus knew Castro already because she was best friends with his daughter. Castro commiserated with her parents over the years and no doubt told Gina all about it. He is said to have shown the captives footage of the candlelight vigils that were transpiring so close by on behalf of Amanda and Gina.
Knight and DeJesus are very bonded. Castro made one or two of his prisoners watch the other/s eat while she or they were deprived of food. He favored Berry. Knight and DeJesus reportedly smuggled food to each other.
The complaint states that Castro impregnated Knight five times and forced her to have miscarriages by starving her for weeks then beating her stomach. When Amanda Berry gave birth to his child, Castro ordered Knight to successfully deliver the baby in a kiddie pool. He assured Knight he would kill her if the baby did not survive.
At one point, the baby stopped breathing and Michelle Knight resuscitated her. Amanda Berry’s daughter is now six years old.
In the video, Knight speaks with a crisp, upbeat voice that sounds much younger than her thirty-two years. She thanks everyone for their prayers and support. Knight occasionally shakes her head slightly for emphasis, like a black girl might, and has a slight ‘hood inflection in her youthful voice. She thanks everyone for their support and assures: “I just want everyone to know I’m doing just fine” and proceeds to talk about her faith in God and looking ahead.
Knight describes her determination to lead a purpose-driven life and help others who’ve been abused and not be consumed by hatred. She expresses gratitude to everyone who has helped her build a “brand new life.” When she talks about walking proudly into the future “hand in hand with my best friend,” she may be speaking about Gina DeJesus, if not Jesus.
Michelle Knight’s statement conveys defiance and a powerful spirit. She seems like an incredibly strong person.
At times, Knight pauses as she struggles slightly to read. But her voice is clear when she sweetly says “I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face.”
When she says “hell” for the second time, she pauses and says it very clearly and deliberately and smiles to the camera.