For the last 48 hours the country has been fascinated by the story of three women and one child who were held captive as sex slaves for over 10 years in Cleveland, Ohio. The story broke on Monday night (May 6, 2013) after Amanda Berry, 27, had the courage and tenacity to escape and get help. Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, also escaped shortly after Berry.
According to one of the women, they were kidnapped and raped for over a decade by three brothers, Ariel, Pedro and Onil Castro. Aside from a number of miscarriages and extremely rare access to the outside world, the women were subjected to psychological abuse, according to City Councilman Brian Cummins.
It is unclear right now exactly what type of psychological abuse the women suffered; however, it would be surprising to hear that the abuse was anything less than severe and intense. Keep in mind that when these women were kidnapped, two of them were minors. Being in captivity for 10 years puts Berry and DeJesus at 17 and 13 years old, respectively. Even though Knight was 22 at the time of her kidnapping, she was still relatively young.
For all intents and purposes, these women were impressionable babies when they were first kidnapped. It is traumatizing enough to be taken from your family, but to be raped repeated FOR 10 YEARS is extreme trauma. Additionally, for some of these women, this terrible ordeal may have been their first sexual experience.
Just think back...while you were carelessly going to the grocery store or laughing with your children on a playground, three women were being held against their wills wondering if they would ever see their families again. Think of all of birthdays (theirs and family members'), holidays and special days that they missed. Did Amanda Berry even know that her mother passed away a year after she was kidnapped from heart failure?
They have a lot of psychological work ahead of them. Berry, DeJesus and Knight had been roommates, friends and each others' protectors for a decade. It is highly probable that these women bonded over their experience and had a hard time leaving each other, even if it meant freedom. Psychologically speaking, being protective of each other was probably one of the factors that contributed to them not being able to escape sooner. If one escaped, what would happen to the other two when the kidnappers found out? What if the escapee couldn't get back in time?
Now, the women are going to have to create a new normal. They are going to have to learn how the world works and where they fit in. They are going to have to learn how to relate to others and trust again, which may prove to be incredibly difficult.
The only thing that won't be difficult in this entire situation is a jury figuring out what to do with those three brothers.
Psychology Is Everywhere!