Women held captive for decade in Cleveland house recount heavy chains and manipulation in new memoir
Deepti Hajela, Associated Press | April 24, 2015 11:37 AM ET http://news.nationalpost.com/news/women-held-captive-for-decade-in-cleveland-house-recount-heavy-chains-and-manipulation-in-new-memoir
More from Associated Press
NEW YORK — When Amanda Berry’s toddler daughter had night terrors and started screaming and running around the room, Berry couldn’t always get to her — because she was chained and couldn’t move that far.
Big, heavy chains were a regular part of Berry’s life for years as she, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were held captive in a Cleveland home by Ariel Castro before finally escaping in 2013. So were repeated rapes and other abuse.
But the women survived, and now Berry and DeJesus have written a book about their experiences. “We are free, we love life,” the women said in the note to readers at the beginning of Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland, which they wrote with journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan. Hope is scheduled to come out Monday. The Associated Press purchased an early copy in New York.
Berry kept journals and other writings during her captivity; the book shifts between her and DeJesus’ perspectives and recounts what their families went through and what Castro’s background and life were like. Knight, who legally changed her name to Lily Rose Lee, has written a separate book about her experience, which was published last year. Berry and DeJesus said they invited her to write with them and “wish her only the best.”
Castro kidnapped the women from 2002 to 2004 and kept them locked up in his home. Berry, who gave birth to Castro’s daughter during her imprisonment, broke out through a door in May 2013, leading all three women to freedom. Castro, 53, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years in prison. He hanged himself in his cell in September 2013.
Berry and DeJesus were teens when they were abducted, and they recounted how Castro was familiar to them through his children when they initially accepted car rides from him that led to their captivity. The years that followed were a mix of horror interspersed with odd moments of grace, like when the three girls had a pillow fight when Castro locked them in the garage.
Castro initially kept the women apart, and even when he allowed them to be together, he tried to manipulate their relationships with one another. The women described how he insisted the sex was consensual, that he said he had been a victim of sexual abuse as a child and wasn’t doing anything wrong. The women said he even talked about when they would get out of the house, wondering what moniker he would be known by. He insisted that if Berry wrote a book, she write “the truth,” that she had feelings for him.
The birth of Berry’s daughter in December 2006 was also a turning point. Castro doted on his child, whom he called “Pretty” and took out and about in Cleveland. As the girl grew older, Berry wrote, it became harder and harder to hide the strangeness of their lives.
On the day of the escape, Berry said, Castro left the house without locking her in her room. She was terrified it was some kind of trap, but she took the risk anyway. They recount their mix of feelings on hearing of Castro’s death, with Berry in particular conflicted over the impact it would have on her daughter.
In the end, they wrote about the steps they’ve taken to move forward, such as Berry learning to drive and DeJesus getting a job.