Published July 09, 2013
Three women who were held in a Cleveland home for a decade broke their silence Tuesday, issuing a YouTube video thanking the public for their encouragement and financial support.
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight said that the support of their families, friends, and the public is helping them rebuild their lives after what Berry called "this ordeal" and what Knight called "hell."
"I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and my head held high," Knight said. "I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don't want to be consumed by hatred."
DeJesus' parents joined their daughter on camera to thank the public for donations to a fund set up to support the women and urged families of missing people to reach out to their neighbors for assistance.
Berry, DeJesus, and Knight went missing between 2002 and 2004 at the ages of 14, 16, and 20, respectively. They were found May 6 after Berry broke through a door at the two-story home where the women were being held and yelled to neighbors for help.
Ariel Castro, a former bus driver, has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment alleging he kidnapped the women and held them in his house. Castro fathered a 6-year-old daughter with Berry and is accused of starving and punching Knight, causing her to miscarry.
Berry, the only one of the three women whose photographs have appeared publicly since her release, had shorter hair with a blonde streak in it. Knight, who authorities said had been taken captive first, wore glasses, had closely cropped hair and spoke a bit haltingly.
Knight said in the video that she is building a "brand new life."
The video was filmed July 2 and released on a YouTube channel under the name of Hennes Paynter Communications, a Cleveland-based crisis management and media training firm.
Kathy Joseph, an attorney for Knight, said in a statement to The Associated Press that the three women wanted to "say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world, now that two months have passed."
She said they're being recognized in public, "so they decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages."
James Wooley, attorney for Berry and DeJesus, also issued a statement saying Knight and his clients thank people for the privacy they've been given and do not want to discuss their case with the news media or anyone else.
The Associated Press contributed to this report