It’s a tale so horrific that parents of teenage and pre-teen daughters the world over are still having nightmares in the aftermath – what if it were my daughter? What did those girls go through in that hellhole? How could something like this happen? However did they survive for ten years?
The unfolding saga of the three women held as sex slaves in a Cleveland, Ohio home for over a decade – during which time one of them had a child, now six, fathered by her captor – has shocked the city to its core. It seems so impossible for something that horrible to happen in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. The question many people are asking is, how is it possible that those women never had a chance to escape in ten years?
The sad answer is that they probably did have multiple opportunities – but they were so battered and broken that they were terrified to take them.
Authorities who’ve been interviewing the victims now say that Ariel Castro, the man accused of holding them and raping them repeatedly times over the years, trained the women to fear escape attempts by “pretending to leave” multiple times – and if he returned to find that one of the women had moved at all from her room, he would punish her with a severe beating. The women interacted when they could, but were mostly kept in isolation. Ten years – ten long years of never knowing when that man was really there or really gone. Ten years mostly spent alone. Ten years of being beaten and raped at the will of a madman. One of the victims even lost five babies by being beaten and starved until she miscarried – a trauma that by itself can send women into suicidal depression. Authorities say that in time, the women “succumbed to their reality.” They believed there was no escape, and attempting it would only cause them pain – the mindset all slave-owners hope their slaves will come to adopt.
For some reason, the day the women were found – the day Amanda Berry started screaming for help and attempting to break out of her prison, attracting the attention of the neighbors – something clicked, and freedom was possible. But even on that day – even when Amanda and her daughter broke free, even when people were coming to help, and even when the police were on their way, the other two women stayed in the house.
They could not free themselves – they had to be rescued.
Be aware. Notice if something in your neighborhood seems off. Notice what homes always have the windows covered. One neighbor said he wondered why Ariel Castro, who apparently lived alone, would frequently come home with multiple fast food bags and four beverages – way too much food for one person to eat in a single meal. Notice. If something seems fishy, call the authorities. You could be the person who ends someone else’s long, long nightmare.