You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Scars will linger for victims

Experts say treatment, counseling can help crime victims recover.

After spending about a decade in captivity, the three Cleveland women who were freed Monday may struggle for years to overcome the psychological and emotional trauma they suffered.

Experts interviewed by the Dayton Daily News said survivors of kidnapping and sexual slavery often develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. Young kidnapping victims can wrestle with identity issues and have a hard time with social interactions and decision-making.

But treatment, counseling and family support can help victims of terrible crimes re-adapt to everyday life, according to both victim advocates and survivors. Even some of the deepest emotional scars can be healed in time, they said.

“I work with people who have experienced various degrees of trauma, and I tell them, ‘You’ll never forget what happened, but we might be able reduce the intensity with which you remember things emotionally or physically,’” said Matthew Heiner, psychologist with the University of Dayton Counseling Center.

A decade-long nightmare came to an end Monday for Amanda Berry, 27; Gina DeJesus, 23;, and Michelle Knight, 32, when neighbors and police helped the women escape from a Cleveland home where they were being held captive, authorities said. Berry’s 6-year-old daughter also was freed.


The three women disappeared between August 2002 and April 2004. Authorities said the women were abducted, enslaved and raped by 52-year-old Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver. Castro is being held on a $8 million bond, and he faces multiple charges of kidnapping and rape.

The women have been reunited with their friends and families, but it could be a long time before their lives return to normal.

Victims of kidnappings and abductions usually are not held captive for such long periods of time.

The Dayton Police Department reported about 53 kidnappings and abductions between January 1, 2012, and September 30, 2012. In many cases, the victims were only held captive for a few hours or less.

In one of the more disturbing cases, a 45-year-old Dayton man allegedly abducted a woman in her mid-20s, and he held her captive for 12 hours inside a furniture store and repeatedly raped her.

The woman suffered a “great deal” of physical and emotional trauma during those 12 hours, said Dayton police Sgt. Larry Tolpin. But for the three Cleveland women, the extended punishment, apparently occurring over a decade, must have seemed unending.

DeJesus and Berry, who both vanished as young teenagers, were confined during important periods of their development when people learn social skills and form their identities, said Daniel Davis, a board certified forensic psychologist with the Netcare Forensic Center in Columbus, who has not examined or diagnosed the victims.

“If a person is held captive for a shorter period of time, it means that prior to that they had more life experiences and they are out of the circumstances and into a supporting environment much faster,” Davis said. “These individuals, because we think their exposure is more limited, they may have more difficulty.”

Long-term confinement means the victims may be unfamiliar with the outside world.

Davis said he once treated a child whose confinement and isolation was so severe that he became scared the first time he heard other children clapping. He also was terrified the first time he saw an airplane.

“It was frightening to him because he didn’t know what these things were,” he said.

Everybody’s situation and circumstances are unique, but survivors of sexual assault and other trauma commonly experience guilt, shame, nightmares, flashbacks, depression, substance abuse, panic attacks and other disorders, said Sandy Hunt, director of the Victim Witness Division of the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.

Friends and family members often want to be overprotective of victims, and do everything for them, Hunt said. But victims often need to regain confidence in their own independence.

“Survivors need time to regain their strength and supporters need to empower them,” she said. “(It) is essential for the survivor to regain a sense of control over her life, and that is why the survivor must make (her) own decisions.”

The Cleveland women will likely feel grief over their lost childhoods, and they may still feel unsafe, said Theresa Flores, a survivor of child sex trafficking who earned a master’s degree from the University of Dayton and is the author of “The Slave Across the Street.”

Survivors often feel guilt or blame themselves for being unable to prevent their abductions or escape their imprisonment, said Flores, who was forced into sexual servitude at the age of 15.

But victims must learn to accept that they did all they could in dangerous and life-threatening situations, and their choices may be why they are alive today.

Flores said hopefully such feelings of disappointment will subside with time and through intensive counseling.

“It’s going to be hard, but they will be able to get back in society and be productive citizens,” she said.

People are resilient, and intensive services, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, have proven effective at helping overcome trauma, psychologists said.

Survivors cope in different ways, and how people respond to horrible events is often based on their prior experiences and feelings and beliefs.

“It’s not a given that these people will be walking around traumatized for the rest of their lives,” Heiner said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in News

Fantasy sports may be regulated in Ohio

With more than 57 million players in the U.S. and Canada, the industry around fantasy sports betting is putting on a full court press to get Ohio and other states to declare their industry legal. State Reps. Jonathan Dever, R-Cincinnati, and Robert McColley, R-Napoleon, introduced House Bill 132, which would declare the fantasy sports betting legal...
Athlete of the Week Mechanicsburg High School
Athlete of the Week Mechanicsburg High School

Name: Tanner Smith School: Mechanicsburg High School Grade: 12 Age: 19 Sports: Wrestling, Football Claim to fame/honors: 2017 DIII Wrestling State Champ Words you live by: “Every day is a day to get better.” Toughest opponent: Carson Kharchilava Biggest influence: Parents and coaches Game-day rituals: Tie my wrestling shoes perfectly What&rsquo...
Student of the Week Mechanicsburg High School
Student of the Week Mechanicsburg High School

Name: Peyton “Rayfon” O’Laughlin School: Mechanicsburg High School Grade: 12 Age: 18 Extra-curricular: Bowling, jazz band, track and field Claim to fame/honors: Part of the Mechanicsburg boys bowling team that went undefeated this season and helped win the team its 8th consecutive OHC championship Words you live by: “You don&rsquo...
National Guard Brigade headquartered in Springfield set for deployment
National Guard Brigade headquartered in Springfield set for deployment

An Ohio National Guard sustainment brigade headquartered in Springfield was sent off by family and friends Saturday afternoon as it prepares for deployment. The 371st brigade, made up of soldiers from Springfield and all over Ohio, is headed to Texas for additional training and then will be sent to Southwest Asia. A large crowd cheered and waved Saturday...
At least 5 dead, dozens injured as tornadoes hit eastern Texas
At least 5 dead, dozens injured as tornadoes hit eastern Texas

Tornadoes tracked across parts of Texas on Saturday, leaving behind a swath of damage, injuring dozens of people and killing at least five, according to multiple reports. Preliminary reports to the National Weather Service in Fort Worth indicated that as many as three tornadoes raked over parts of Henderson, Van Zandt and Rains counties in eastern...
More Stories