Cleveland kidnapping victims speak out for the first time
(CNN) — For the first time since their rescue two months ago, the world is hearing directly from the three women who were held captive in Cleveland for a decade. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight released a video on YouTube, offering their thanks to all those who have supported them since they were freed from captivity. “I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal, everyone who has been there to support us. It has been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness,” Amanda Berry says in the video. Berry was abducted at age 16 in April 2003 and has a 6-year-old daughter, who was born during her captivity. Gina DeJesus was 14 when she was kidnapped in 2004. She says to the public, “thank you for the support.” Michelle Knight, who was abducted at age 21 in August 2002 says, “thank you everyone for your love, support, and donations which helped me build a brand new life. I want everyone to know I’m doing just fine. I may have been to hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high and my feet firmly on the ground.” The Courage Fund, which was established to help the three victims, has raised more than $1 million dollars. The three women were held captive by Ariel Castro and were beaten, raped and starved for a decade, according to prosecutors. They were freed in May after one shouted for help while Castro was gone from the house. The women don’t plan to make any additional public statements. “I’m getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely. I ask that everyone continue to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life,” Berry says. Castro is accused of holding the women in his Cleveland home. He faces 329 counts, including one count of aggravated murder for allegedly causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy. His next pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 24th.