One of three women freed a year ago after more than a decade imprisoned in a Cleveland house wrote in harrowing detail of beatings, rapes and torture at the hands of her captor, Ariel Castro, and her need to forgive him to move on from the ordeal.
“If I don’t forgive him, then it’ll be like he imprisoned me twice,” Michelle Knight said on the last page of a book released on Tuesday to coincide with the anniversary of their escape.
“Forgiveness is the only way I can truly reclaim my life,” Knight said.
Knight, now 33, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus fled Castro’s dilapidated house along with Berry’s then 6-year-old daughter, a girl fathered by Castro.
Castro pleaded guilty to hundreds of charges including kidnapping, rape and murder for forcing Knight to miscarry. He was sentenced to life without parole, plus 1,000 years, but hanged himself in his cell in September.
In “Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed,” Knight talks about growing up a neglected and abused child, living as a homeless teen, becoming a single mother and then her abduction by Castro in 2002.
Knight recounted being chained up, beaten, raped and mentally tortured for years by Castro, who pointed to high-profile searches by the families of co-prisoners Berry and DeJesus as proof that no one cared about her.
Those words bit into her, she wrote. “Even if I escape from this bastard, I often thought, what kind of life will be waiting for me in the real world? After this mess is over, who will really be there to love me?”
Knight, who is changing her name to Lillian Rose Lee, referred to Castro only as “dude” throughout the book, but wrote that she cried after hearing about his suicide.
Dr. Frank Ochberg, an expert on post-traumatic stress, said in an interview that many survivors experience traumatic bonding with their abusers.
After feeling invisible most of her life, Knight wrote, she has been overwhelmed by the attention she has received and does not know how to answer people when they ask how she is doing.
“I don’t have all the answers. I probably never will. But I have realized that my life can’t get better if I dwell on everything I’ve been through. I have to look ahead,” she wrote.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by David Bailey, Mary Wisniewski and Steve Orlofsky)