Since news broke in May that three women were found inside a Cleveland home, my heart has ached for them. The young women — Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus — were held as captives for more than a decade by a man who hid them from the world, tortured, raped and chained them.
Today that man Ariel Castro, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the forced miscarriage of Michelle Knight’s unborn child plus 1,000 years for more than 930 other offenses. As part of the associated hearing, Michelle Knight read a statement to the judge.
Michelle Knight is my age. She was taken just weeks after I completed a summer internship at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, working with some of the country’s best journalists. (The paper itself is going through hard times right now, which is devastating!) When I learned in May about when and where she was taken — from a street I’d driven on — I couldn’t get her out of my mind. She was the one talked about the least in the news, the one the FBI — and her family — had stopped looking for. My mind raced for weeks. How can that be? How could her mom not be frantic? (She’d moved to Florida and news media said her brother “didn’t know she was missing.”) Her entire story seemed to me at the time the worst thing that could possibly happen to a person. Her experience made the pain, isolation, self-hatred and desperation I felt in the seven months before surgery to repair my separated pelvis seem like getting a sliver.
Today, she did something amazing for victims of trauma of any kind. She said her piece (and made her peace) with grace, forgiveness and a forward gaze.
Michelle Knight, you are my hero!
I watched the video of you reading your statement twice and I searched the internet for a transcript (This is pretty close). Your words were so powerful. So purposeful. So healing. You could have screamed, called him names, talked about everything you went through. Instead, you showed the world how you are moving forward, how driven you are to rebuild your life. You could have broken down, sobbed or wailed. Instead you spoke with strength, clarity and intensity. You were an amazing example of the resilience of the human spirit.
Michelle Knight, you are my role model.
You stood there and said Gina DeJesus was the good that came out of that awful experience for you. You told us that you knew Gina had your back and would always be part of your life. For finding that good you are my role model.
My experience since I sustained diastasis symphysis pubis has been surreal at times. During the worst of the pain, I detached from myself, I turned inward, I began to give up. My son, growing and changing every day, helped me to hold on. My son — who’s birth lead to my injury — is the good that came from the experience. And it is because of my experience that I have began spending more time focusing on my body, going to yoga and thinking about how things feel – both good and bad. On days I feel down, or sore and don’t want to move, you will be my role model. Focus on the good. Get up. Move forward.
You stood there and said you were not going to let what he did to you define who you are, who you will be. For that you are my inspiration.
I strive each day to be less angry with my own body, to be less affected by what happened to me physically when my pelvis separated. Somedays it is easier than others, but you have shown me what grace looks like. You stood up in front of that courtroom full of people — and the countless others who watched or will watch on TV or online — and said what you needed to say so you can keep moving forward.
Michelle, if you ever see this, know that I have thought of you consistently since May and I will continue to think of you. My heart ached for you and still does. I wish there was ANYTHING I could do to take away the pain that comes from thinking no one cares. Lots of people know about you and care about you now. You will never be forgotten again. Thank you for the strength you have given others. I’m sure I’m not alone in that feeling.
I will remember your note to Cleveland Police for years.
…Life is tough, but I am tougher! ‘Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly.’…
May your path from here on be clear, may you be surrounded with love and may you one day be completely comfortable in your skin and able to dance, sing, love and decide for yourself.