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Cleveland Captivity Case: Survivors Need Compassion

IMAGE: As more details come to light in the kidnapping of three Cleveland women, experts say those specifics will likely have great impact on all rape survivors, their supporters, and the whole community. Image courtesy of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
IMAGE: As more details come to light in the kidnapping of three Cleveland women, experts say those specifics will likely have great impact on all rape survivors, their supporters, and the whole community. Image courtesy of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
May 10, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Held captive for more than a decade and now back with their families, the healing process begins for Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight.

And as the details of their ordeal unfold, experts say the trauma will continue for both them and other survivors of rape.

Megan O'Bryan, CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, says it's a very long and intensive path of recovery for victims of sexual trauma.

"There is no end to a healing journey,” she says. “It's a daily process and it requires practiced coping skills and a lot of support from the family, the community and professionals."

O'Bryan says there are many victims of rape in the community who have never sought help. And since the case has broken, she says her organization has had an increase in calls.

"It is very normal for something of this nature to re-trigger symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in survivors,” she says, “both those who have begun their healing process and most certainly those who have not."

O'Bryan adds all survivors of rape need compassion and support and she encourages anyone who needs help to reach out. They can call the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center at 216-619-6192 or the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence at 888-866-8388.

An estimated one-in-six Ohio women are survivors of rape.

Victims usually turn to a rape crisis center because they want to heal in a private and confidential setting. O'Bryan says the survivors in the Cleveland case don't have that option.

"These women's choices have been taken away for so many years,” she says. “And their humanity and their dignity has been taken away. I am hoping that the media coverage will not be another form of victimization."

As the public looks to point the finger in this case, O'Bryan says the only person to blame in a crime of this nature is the perpetrator.

"We don't have one systemic failure,” she says. “We have societal issues that create the condition for regular incidences like we see, where women are being raped and murdered."

The suspect in the case, 52-year-old former school bus driver Ariel Castro, is being held on kidnapping and rape charges.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH