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Sunday, October 23, 2016

As I write this, not even 48 hours have passed since three young women escaped a decade-long nightmare of captivity in a house in Cleveland.

In this short time, speculation about them and their ordeal has reached stratospheric heights. Stories parse their 10-year-ago pasts. Headlines declare that “their nightmare is over” and that their escape is “a miracle.” Worse, dark assumptions masquerading as questions are creeping into commentary and social media: Why didn’t they run … try to escape … bang on windows … scream for help years ago?


For the sake of Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight: Stop.

For the millions of female survivors of sexual assault in this country: Stop.


The day after the women’s rescue, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center sent out a news release titled “Compassion for Survivors”:

“Cleveland Rape Crisis Center expresses deep empathy and compassion for Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and their families. As the harrowing facts of this high-profile story unfold, we are aware the nature of this crime will likely have great impact on all rape survivors, their supporters, and the whole community.

“Healing from the wounds inflicted by sexual violence is a lifelong journey. Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is a compassionate resource for those who have experienced this kind of trauma. Support can be found at our 24-hour hotline, 216-619-6192, and more information can be found at We stand ready to support those survivors who will reach out for help, some for the very first time, as they are impacted by the stories of Gina, Amanda and Michelle.”

There is so much we do not yet know about the women’s kidnapping and daily lives in captivity. What we do know, without a single detail, is that it will take years, maybe decades, for them to recover. And they are not alone.

“I got sad when I saw some of the news coverage,” Meg O’Bryan told me Wednesday. She is the president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. “Twice yesterday reporters asked me, ‘What is the one thing these women need to heal?'”

Wrong question, she said.

“This is a lifelong journey for these women — and a different one for each of them. I don’t see any miracle here. Their nightmare is not over, just as it isn’t for millions of other survivors.”

  • sigrid28

    By concentrating on the victims, we fail to question in greater detail the record-keeping methods of the Cleveland police. Living in rural and urban areas of Illinois, I am well aware that, at least in these police departments, records of ALL contacts with police are routinely kept–all calls, all interviews, all written statements. If a person calls the police, there should be a record of that call, who made it, who answered it, its subject and when the call took place–even if there was no response other than to answer the telephone. Furthermore, telephone records can be subpoenaed to ascertain if calls were actually made–these records show time of call, phone numbers, etc. These records can all be obtained by the media using Freedom of Information requests, because police are public servants, police stations and call centers are publicly held locations, and the cities that hire police and run these properties are public domains. I find it highly suspect that no records for calls for a ten-year period can be found–while at the same time acknowledging that every source of information in any news story must be confirmed. For the sake of these women who were recovered–and the many others who are missing–the excuse by Cleveland police that no record of calls exists should be closely examined.

    • Barbara Morgan

      I wonder how many more victims are out there that went missing and the police never really looked for them? Which is what happened the case of Ms. Knight. Because she was older(20) when abducted the police seemed to think that she had left home and chose not to get in touch with her family when in truth she was being held prisoner by these three preverts.What makes law enforcement
      automaticaly think that because a person is a certain age they have left on their own ? It is a nightmare for all three women but I feel if Ms. Knight’s disapperance had been handled diffirent by the Cleveland police the other women would have never been kidnapped and the three wouldn’t have been thru hell and back .

      • sigrid28

        Another problem that affects Ms. Knight as an older victim is that, according to news reports (if they are accurate), she does not appear to have a substantial family network, which is another reason the search for her was dropped before those for Ms. Perry and Ms. DeJesus. I hope the appropriate groups within the Cleveland area (or in Ms. Knight’s home town–I believe she is not from Cleveland), will embrace her and give her access to health and educational resources. In her case, it will, in Hillary Clinton’s turn of phrase, “take a village.”

  • sigrid28

    If it were up to Republicans, ALL POOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN would be living in ghettos without nutrition, health care, education, civil rights, or safety from violent criminals and gun violence. While we turn away our gaze to give these brave young women time to heal within their homes and neighborhoods, we will have many other urgent tasks to attend to.