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Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight Say 'Thank You' to Public (YouTube Video)

( [email protected] ) Jul 09, 2013 11:25 AM EDT
Amanda Berry, 27; Gina DeJesus, 23; and Michelle Knight, 32, speak separately in a three-minute, 30-second video released on YouTube.
Amanda Berry (L), Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight (R).

The three young women held captive in a Cleveland home for almost a decade spoke publicly for the first time since they were freed in May.

Amanda Berry, 27; Gina DeJesus, 23; and Michelle Knight, 32, speak separately in a three-minute, 30-second video released on YouTube. They thanked those who gave them emotional and financial support since their rescue from the former school bus driver Ariel Castro on May 6.

Berry spoke first. Reading from a short statement, she thanked family and friends and concluded by asking that "everyone respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life."

"First and foremost, I want everyone to know how happy I am to be home with my family, my friends," Berry says. "It's been unbelievable. I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness. I am getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely."

DeJesus appeared next. "I would say thank you for your support," she said, and her father and mother also spoke briefly.

Dejesus's mother reflected on the love and support of neighbors, such as those who played such a big role in helping the three young women finally escape their captivity.

Knight, who appears last, talks about how her faith in God has helped her in the recovery process.

"I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high and my feet firmly on the ground. Walking hand in hand with my best friend, I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation," she said.

"I don't want to be consumed by hatred. ...We need to take a leap of faith and know that God is in control. We have been hurt by people, but we need to rely on God as being the judge. God has a plan for all of us," she said.

Knight also said she was "looking forward to my brand-new life" and thanked supporters for helping her begin her recovery.

"People are recognizing them now as they go about in public," said Knight's lawyer, Kathy Joseph, "so they decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages."

The video was filmed July 2 and released by the Hennes Paynter Communications public relations agency on the women's behalf with the cooperation of their lawyers. All of them have turned aside media interview requests and appealed again for privacy.

DeJesus was 14 when she disappeared in 2004, Berry was 16 when she went missing in 2003 and Knight was 20 when she disappeared.

Ariel Castro, 52, was arrested and has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment alleging he kidnapped them off the streets and held them captive in his two-story home.

Castro's trial is scheduled for next month but could be delayed if the defense asks for more preparation time. Last week a judge rejected Castro's request to see Berry's child fathered by him.