Michelle Knight hasn’t wanted to be in the public eye much since her dramatic rescue from the torment of Ariel Castro; as one of three women who endured severe physical abuse, multiple rapes, and forced miscarriages at the hands of Castro, she is thought to have received the worst of his punishments and reportedly needed surgery to repair the damage he did to her face. She also took the brunt of his abuse so that the other two women–Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus–didn’t have to. When she stood before a courtroom this week to tell her story, there was an almost palpable feeling of both grief and relief that these women found the strength to survive…and escape.
“…I worried about what would happen to me and the other girls every day,” Knight said. “Days never got shorter. Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. Years turned into eternity.”
Knight, who was kidnapped in 2002, was thought by her family to have left voluntarily because she was angry over losing custody of her 2-year old son. Although her mother says she never stopped looking for her daughter, her disappearance wasn’t as talked about in the media. Knight was reportedly upset with her family and asked not to see them once she and the other women made their escape.
Besides the fear that she might not survive to ever see her son again, Knight suffered repeated rapes by Castro which resulted in pregnancies that he would terminate by throwing her down the stairs, punching her in the stomach, or feeding her rotten food. If that wasn’t horrifying enough, she was also forced to deliver Amanda Berry’s baby in the home and was told if the baby died, she would die as well.
“She served as doctor, nurse, pediatrician, midwife. She did the delivery. She did it under primitive conditions. When that little baby wasn’t breathing, she breathed into the baby. She breathed life into that child,” said Frank Ochberg, who examined and evaluated the women and their level of trauma.
Knight, speaking courageously to Castro during the hearing, said that the death penalty is too good for him.
“Ariel Castro, I remember all the times that you came home talking about what everybody else did wrong and act like you wasn’t doing the same thing. You said, ‘At least I didn’t kill you,'” she said. “You took 11 years of my life away, and now I’ve got it back. I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened. But you’ll face hell for eternity. From this moment on, I will not let you define me or effect who I am. I will live on, you will die a little every day as you think about the 11 years and atrocities you inflicted on us.”
Castro has been sentenced to live in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 1,000 years. He pleaded guilty in exchange for avoidance of the death penalty.