Nature FreedomIt is hard for most of us to imagine how difficult it would be to have our freedom taken away from us for a few hours but it’s downright impossible for us to know how horrible it would be to be held captive for a decade. Two women who have lived through that nightmare are now sharing their experience and how they managed to hold on to hope for so many long years.

Kidnapped as teenagers, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus escaped captivity just two short years ago and now they have released the book, Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland. Berry and DeJesus, kidnapped at 17 and 14, respectively, were repeatedly raped, physically and emotionally abused during the 10 years they were imprisoned in the home of Ariel Castro.

“He Was Always Watching”

When their captor worked evenings or spent time with friends, the women were able do “normal” things such as listening to music or watching The Vampire Diaries on television. In an interview with People magazine, Berry explained: “We would watch the show and then for two hours afterward, we would talk about what’s going to happen next week.” Unfortunately, this break from the harrowing situation wouldn’t last long. DeJesus said that the reprieve would end when Castro came home: “he would walk up the stairs and just ruin our whole day.”

DeJesus, now 25, described their fear-filled lives to People magazine saying: “He was always watching us.  Before the door opened, your heart was just beating real fast. You didn’t know why he was coming up the stairs or what was going to happen.”

Their Escape

Their escape happened on May 6, 2013 when Berry, who has a daughter with Castro as a result of the sexual abuse, realized that he had left the home without locking them inside their rooms. A passerby helped her kick through the front door which led to the rescue of Berry (and her child), DeJesus and a third woman, Michelle Knight.

Castro was taken into custody and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He was found hanged in his cell a month into serving his time. “Sometimes, there are days that I just can’t believe it,” Berry said. “I just feel like I can’t believe that this happened to me.”

Today, Berry and DeJesus do not keep in contact with Knight but they wish her well. The women have remained in Cleveland with their families and have said that they have managed to remain hopeful and optimistic about their futures.
Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland went on sale April 28, 2015.