A Year Later, Kidnapping Victim Has Unbelievable Message For Ariel Castro

Lauren Burgoon
One year after their rescue, the three woman kidnapped by Ariel Castro are thriving.

It's been one year since a story so horrifying it almost defies imagination came to light: madmen Ariel Castro had kept three women in captivity for a decade, systematically abusing and raping them, torturing them and impregnating them.

The women were freed from the house of horrors in Cleveland May 6, 2013, after one took a chance and make a break for freedom. 

So much has happened in the year since Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and her daughter, and Gina DeJesus won their freedom. Each has reconnected with parts of their old lives. They live independent lives and have made amazing strides toward recovery. And the monster who imprisoned them is dead.

Michelle Knight was the first victim taken by Castro, taken when she was 21 years old in 2002 and lured to Castro's house by the promise of puppies for her son. She's also been the most outspoken of the three women since her release, giving several national interviews and speaking frankly about the abuse she suffered as the "most hated one." Since her release, Knight decided to change her name to Lillian and she's penned a book.

In recent interviews, Knight -- even as she recalls beatings, forced miscarriages and being chained naked to a wall -- says she has forgiven Castro.

Amanda Berry was one day from turning 17 when she was kidnapped in 2003. Castro impregnated her and Berry has a 7-year-old daughter who was raised in the Cleveland house and also held captive.

Gina DeJesus was the youngest of the victims, 14 when she was kidnapped. While both Berry and DeJesus have been less visible since their escape, they are working on a book together and they released statements on the one-year anniversary of their freedom:

Amanda Berry:

I would like to thank all the people who have helped and supported my family and me. You have changed our lives in ways you'll never know.

On this day, we decided that the right place for us to be was with other families who have gone through what our family has gone through. I want these families to know they will always have a special place in our hearts.

So much has happened this past year. I have grown. I am strong. And I have so much to live for, to look forward to. The future is bright.

Gina DeJesus: 

I want to thank everyone who donated to the Courage Fund and sent gifts to me. You have made such a difference in my life. This past year has been amazing, full of healing and hope. I am spending time with my family and working with Amanda on a book that we are really excited about. I have also been enjoying new experiences, such as learning how to use new technology and how to drive. Thanks for continuing to respect my privacy and that of my family.

After the women were rescued, supporters established a fund to help them rebuild their lives and get educations. The Cleveland Courage Fund has $1.4 million and counting for the survivors.