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'Thank you:' Cleveland kidnapping victims speak out for the first time

By Julie Cannold, CNN
updated 10:06 AM EDT, Tue July 9, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former captives release YouTube video to convey appreciation to supporters
  • Courage Fund has raised more than $1 million dollars for the victims
  • Women don't plan to make any additional public statements

(CNN) -- For the first time since their rescue two months ago, the world is hearing directly from the three women who were held captive in Cleveland for a decade.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight released a video on YouTube, offering their thanks to all those who have supported them since they were freed from captivity.

"I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal, everyone who has been there to support us. It has been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness," Amanda Berry says in the video. Berry was abducted at age 16 in April 2003 and has a 6-year-old daughter, who was born during her captivity.

Before and after the kidnappings

Gina DeJesus was 14 when she was kidnapped in 2004. She says to the public, "thank you for the support."

Amanda Berry speaks in a video released on YouTube on Monday, July 8, thanking people for support and privacy. Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight escaped from a Cleveland home on May 6 after being held captive for nearly a decade. Amanda Berry speaks in a video released on YouTube on Monday, July 8, thanking people for support and privacy. Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight escaped from a Cleveland home on May 6 after being held captive for nearly a decade.
Kidnapped teens found decade later
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Photos: Kidnapped teens rescued Photos: Kidnapped teens rescued
Gardere: They're on the road to recovery
Psychological ramifications of abduction
Excl. video from day women were freed

Michelle Knight, who was abducted at age 21 in August 2002 says, "thank you everyone for your love, support, and donations which helped me build a brand new life. I want everyone to know I'm doing just fine. I may have been to 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."

Feds: 3 in Ohio held woman, child in 'subhuman' conditions

The Courage Fund, which was established to help the three victims, has raised more than $1 million dollars.

The three women were held captive by Ariel Castro and were beaten, raped and starved for a decade, according to prosecutors.

They were freed in May after one shouted for help while Castro was gone from the house.

'Please don't let me go,' victim told officers

The women don't plan to make any additional public statements.

"I'm getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely. I ask that everyone continue to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life," Berry says.

Castro is accused of holding the women in his Cleveland home. He faces 329 counts, including one count of aggravated murder for allegedly causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy. His next pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 24th.

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When her chance came, kidnapping victim Michelle Knight lit into Ariel Castro, the man who held her captive and raped her in his Cleveland home for a decade.
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updated 7:51 AM EDT, Tue July 30, 2013
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When an judge denied a request for Castro to visit the 6-year-old girl he fathered with one of the women he kidnapped and raped, the reason seemed pretty clear.
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Two were just teenagers when they were kidnapped, but the three women have finally been found a decade later.
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When Amanda Berry screamed for help through a crack in the front door of the house where she was being held, she set in motion an end to roughly a decade of captivity for herself and two other women.
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