(CLEVELAND) — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight — the three women held against their will for a decade locked in a Cleveland, Ohio, home — posted a video on YouTube early Tuesday morning to offer thanks for the support they have received while trying to rebuild their lives.
Each of the women appeared separately in the 3-minute, 33-second video, with Berry and Knight each making a brief statement, while DeJesus answered questions from someone off camera, followed by her father, Felix DeJesus, and then her mother, Nancy Ruiz.
Berry appears calm and happy in the video, which was filmed on July 2. She smiles frequently, as she offers thanks not only for those who have helped her, but to those who have respected the three women’s request for privacy.
“First and foremost, I want everyone to know how happy I am to be home with my family, my friends,” she says. “It’s been unbelievable. I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness. I am getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely.”
In response to a question of what she wants to say, Gina DeJesus briefly answers that she would like to say thank you, before her father and then her mother speak at greater length.
Ruiz reflects on the love and support of neighbors, such as those who played such a big role in helping the three young women finally escape their captivity.
“Parents in general that do have a loved one missing, please do me one big favor. Count on your neighbors. Don’t be afraid to ask for the help because help is available,” she says.
Knight, who appears last, expresses confidence for the future and talks about how her faith in God has helped her.
“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 held high and my feet firmly on the ground,” she says. “Walking hand-in-hand with my best friend, I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation.”
Kathy Joseph, an attorney for Knight, said in a statement about the video that the three young women wanted to “say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world.”
“People are recognizing them now as they go about in public, so they decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages,” Joseph said. “It was their decision to relay their thanks in this way to all of the many people who have offered support to them, for which they are extremely grateful.”
James Wooley, an attorney for Berry and Gina DeJesus, said the release of the video does not mean that the three women will begin making public appearances or granting interviews any time soon.
“It is important for everyone, especially the media, to understand that the three women still have a strong desire for privacy,” Wooley said. “They do not want to talk about their ordeal with the media or anyone else. This cannot be stated strongly enough.”
Ariel Castro, 52, the man accused of kidnapping the three women and keeping them inside his home, has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment that includes charges of kidnapping and rape.
Castro, a former school bus driver, is also accused of the aggravated murder of a fetus for allegedly forcibly causing an abortion in one of his victims that he is accused of impregnating — a charge that could potentially carry the death penalty.
Castro allegedly snatched Berry, Gina DeJesus and Knight between 2002 and 2004 and imprisoned them, sometimes restrained by chains.
The women were freed on May 6 when Berry cried out for help from behind a closed screen door, getting the attention of neighbors.
“Help me. I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years, and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now,” she told a 911 dispatcher, as she escaped the home with her daughter.
Last week, a judge ruled Castro competent to stand trial and denied him access to the 6-year-old daughter he allegedly fathered with Berry.
Jury selection for Castro’s trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 5.
The women have had little comment to the media before Tuesday’s video. In May, a letter released by attorneys for the three women on their behalf said that they were “happy and safe” as they recovered from their harrowing ordeal.
“The outpouring of public support has been nothing short of remarkable,” the letter read. “To have complete strangers offer loving support in the form of money, goods and services, reaching out to help like a family member, is appreciated in ways that are impossible to put into words. Amanda, Gina and Michelle, who have asked for nothing, are frankly overwhelmed by it all.”
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