CLEVELAND (CBSNewYork) — When three women were found alive in Cleveland a decade after disappearing, Long Island kidnapping victim Katie Beers said she was flooded with a rush of buried memories.
Beers told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera she was thrilled that the women — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight – were safe.
“It’s phenomenal. I am so ecstatic that these women have been found alive. I just hope that psychologically and physically that they’re well, and that if they’re not, that they’ll be able to get there,” Beers said.
She said their ordeal was likely even worse than her own horrifying experience.
“I cannot even fathom. I mean, my abduction was 17 days long. It was hell. I was being held by somebody I had known my whole life,” Beers told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan. “These girls, we don’t know anything about the man that abducted them.”
“Personally, what my foster parents did for me was they kept me secluded and kept me out of the public eye for so long, and that gave me the ability to recover,” Beers said.
Beers was only 9 years old when dysfunctional family friend John Esposito abducted her, chained her in a basement bunker, and repeatedly raped her. She spoke about it in January.
“I remember asking John how I would have children, and he told me I would have children with him, and I begged him no,” Beers told McLogan in January.
She said the most difficult part in the road ahead for the Cleveland victims will be trusting others, in their search to feel safe and supported.
“I don’t know if they had television. I don’t know if they had exposure to other people; if they were mistreated throughout the whole time,” said psychiatrist Dr. Tina Walch of the Zucker Hillside Hospital, a psychiatric facility. “We do know one had a child. Was that process in the hospital; was it at home? “
Walch said other kidnapping victims who did not flee, such as Patty Hearst, Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart, suffered under the spell of their captors – the Stockholm Syndrome.
“Initially, I would assume they were scared, frightened, traumatized by the event, but as days, months and years go on, it becomes a normalizing situation, they have had to adapt to,” Walch said.
Psychiatrists and Beers said re-entering a world left behind may create anxiety, and even shame and guilt. The Cleveland victims will need therapy and privacy to recover, they said.
The women were found Monday afternoon in a house in Cleveland. Berry was heard by a neighbor screaming for help, and a neighbor, Charles Ramsey, helped free Berry and a young girl, 6, who was believed to be her daughter, CBS affiliate WOIO-TV, Cleveland reported.
Berry then called 911 begging for help.
“Help me, I’m Amanda Berry,” she said in the call. “I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m here. I’m free now.”
Berry disappeared in 2003 at the age of 16, on her way home from her job at a Burger King. DeJesus disappeared about a year later on her way home from school, and Knight was in her early 20s when she disappeared in 2002.
Police said former school bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, imprisoned the women inside the home on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland with the help of his two brothers, Onil and Pedro.
Authorities have not said whether the women were restrained or if any of them had been sexually assaulted. They want to give the women time given the trauma they have been through.
“I just hope and pray that those guys get what’s coming to them. That’s all I hope, because they deserve it,” said Amanda Berry’s aunt Susie Aliss.
Neighbors claimed they have alerted police about suspicious activity at the home in the past. One woman said she once saw a naked woman crawling through the backyard, while another man said he heard pounding on the doors inside the home back in 2011.
Police have responded to the house twice over the past 15 years – once when Castro reported a fight in the street, another time when Castro was investigated for leaving a child on a bus.
De Jesus’ cousin said Ariel Castro used to show up at vigils the family held for Gina.
“I’m mad right now because he involved himself, and he was more like a step ahead of us through this whole process, but we got him,” said Robert Osorio.
The Cleveland Branch of the FBI wants people to call (216) 522-1400 to provide any tips relative to this investigation, WOIO reported.
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