February 16, 2021
Author Michelle Knight was held captive for 11 years by her kidnapper in horrifying conditions, but she overcame the trauma of her ordeal and found love and happiness.
18 years ago, 21-year-old Michelle Knight vanished after leaving a relative's house on her way home. For the next 11 years, she was held captive, along with two other girls, Amanda Berry and Georgina DeJesus.
Today, the 39-year-old has overcome the trauma of the years of abuse and captivity and has taken back her life. But Michelle's troubles started long before her kidnapping when she was just 14 years old.
When Ariel Castro picked out Michelle as his victim on that August day in 2002, the young woman was already going through the agonizing ordeal of losing custody of her two-year-old son Joey.
The daughter of divorced parents, Michelle had been bullied at school because of her 4 feet, 7 inches frame, and nicknamed "shorty." She later revealed that she had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a male relative.
Castro, an unemployed bus driver, approached Michelle and offered her a ride home. Since Castro was the father of one of her friends, Michelle accepted. She was to be his prisoner for the next 11 years.
Castro locked Michelle up in one of the upstairs rooms of his house. Eight months later, Castro kidnapped another victim, 16-year-old Amanda Berry, and in April 2004, he took Gina De Jesus, 14.
Throughout her decade in captivity, Michelle clung to the hope of being reunited with her son Joey.
While the three girls suffered unimaginable horrors at the hands of Castro, the police believed that Amanda and Gina had been kidnapped but were in all probabilities dead. Michelle was considered a runaway.
Over their close to 11 years of captivity, Michelle miscarried several times, while Amanda had given birth to a little girl fathered by their kidnapper with Michelle's help. Of the three, Michelle suffered the most for standing up to their kidnapper.
Then in May 2013, Amanda realized that even though Castro had locked the screen door, he had left the front door unlatched. She called for help and managed to attract the attention of passing neighbors, which led to the three women's rescue.
When police broke into the house, a sobbing Michelle gratefully embraced a police officer, thanking him for saving her. She had just turned 32 and had spent a third of her life in captivity.
FIGHT FOR HER LIFE
Ironically, it was after her rescue that Michelle came closest to death due to an infection. Castro's beatings had left her almost blind in one eye and suffering from nerve damage, but Michelle's spirit was unbroken.
When her kidnapper was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences plus 1000 years in prison, Michelle was present at the hearing, addressed the court, and vowed to Castro that she'd overcome the hell he'd put her through.
In 2014, Michelle's retelling of her story, "Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed," was published. In it, she opened up about the abuse she suffered before and after her kidnapping by Castro.
Throughout her decade in captivity, Michelle clung to the hope of being reunited with her son Joey, but it was not to be. Joey had been adopted by his foster parents and was 13 at the time of her release, and Michelle chose not to disrupt his life.
Michelle was determined not to be a victim for the rest of her life and not to allow Castro's violence to taint the rest of her life. She went into therapy and realized that the path to healing lay through forgiveness. She explained:
“I chose to forgive [Castro] because (...) I didn't want it to hold me back or control my life anymore, so I had to break free.”
Michelle's greatest victory over Castro was that she learned to set aside her fears and trust again. In 2016, Michelle fell in love and married Miguel Rodriguez, who had been introduced to her by mutual friends.
Michelle overcame her trauma and is happily married and a motivational speaker and advocate for trafficked and abused women and children. Her only regret is that her suffering at the hands of Castro left her unable to have more children.
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