By Kathy Schiffer
After ten years in captivity, three young women have been rescued from sexual slavery and a former school bus driver with no prior record of criminal activity has been arrested in the case.
Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, endured repeated beatings and sexual assaults in the home of 52-year-old Ariel Castro, who had kept the women bound and chained inside his west-side Cleveland residence. During ten years of captivity, Amanda gave birth to a child, now six. Police report that the three women underwent multiple pregnancies and five or more miscarriages before a neighbor, hearing the womens' screams, helped Berry to break free and call 911 while Castro was out of the house.
Yesterday morning, Ariel Castro was arraigned in Cleveland Municipal Court on three counts of rape one for each of the three women and four counts of kidnap, which include the child. Bond was set at $8 million, meaning that he's likely to remain behind bars until trial.
Yesterday, on his radio program "Kresta in the Afternoon," Al Kresta talked with Liz Yore, a childrens' advocate with 30 years experience, about what is one of the most dramatic kidnapping and abuse cases in American history.
Asked about the incidence of criminal abductions, Yore reported that each year in America, there are 113 actual stranger abductions. There are many more attempted abductions, and approximately 800,000 missing children every year in the U.S. Of these missing children, perhaps 250,000 are parental abductions; the rest are runaways or throw-aways, who are at most risk of abduction by a stranger.
Al Kresta emphasized that he didn't want to blame the victims, but he wondered how Castro had been able to imprison the women for so many years. Yore cited impediments to escape including threats (I'll kill the little girl if you leave), physical coercion, lack of proper nutrition, locked rooms, ropes and chains. She noted, too, that the women had bonded during their confinement, and perhaps wanted to protect one another. Sometimes in the case of younger captives, the victims may over time identify with the perpetrator; but this is less likely in the case of teens or young women like the women who won their freedom this week.
In closing, Yore offered a warning for parents and children: Castro, as an Ohio school bus driver, must have undergone a background check; yet he escaped notice as a sexual predator and he was not listed in the National Sex Offender Registry. In fact, most offenders are not listed in the Registry; so parents should not grow complacent if there is no sex offender on the list from their neighborhood. Yore encouraged listeners to keep their eyes and ears open, and to get involved in order to protect children.
To report a missing child or to report any suspicious activity, listeners should call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Childrens' Hotline at 1-800-THELOST.
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ABOUT LIZ YORE: An international child welfare consultant, Yore worked for five years as Special Counsel for Harpo Productions, Oprah Winfrey's organization, during which time she was Child Advocate for both the Oprah Winfrey Show and Winfrey's Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Prior to that, she was General Counsel for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, where she created the first missing child unit. Before that, Liz was General Counsel at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia, and its first Director of the International Division handling international child abduction cases.