It was a heart-warming and heart-wrenching story both at the same time. Three Cleveland girls, while still in their teens, were kidnapped and thought dead after ten long years of going missing. Suddenly, a decade after their mysterious disappearances, Amanda Berry, Michele Knight and Amanda Dejesus were discovered in a Cleveland suburb, the victims of a 52-year-old former bus driver. It brought a happy ending to three families who dealt with the pain and anguish of losing loved ones, without a clue of what might have happened.
The Cleveland story is an exception, not the rule, in most cases of kidnapped or missing children. The young ladies cannot be considered children anymore because they have aged ten years and undergone physical and mental abuse at the hands of a mad man. Thanks to the work of Amanda Berry though, they are all free and will live to tell their harrowing tale, something that many victims never get a chance to do.
These three girls join a handful of young kidnap victims that managed to escape captivity. In some ways, all of these people are connected as kindred spirits who looked possible death in the eye and lived to tell about. Recent memory recalls the tale of Jaycee Dugard, who was grabbed and held hostage for 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido. She endured one of the longer ordeals, but did so by fostering a relationship of sorts with Phillip Garrido, with whom she had two children. She never attempted to flee, but was later discovered and set free.
Elizabeth Smart was another young lady that was held for nine months back in 2002. She was kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell, who had such a hold on Smart that she never tried to attempt to flee. This was remarkable in the fact that Mitchell would take her out in public, though disguised in a veil like a Muslim woman might be. She lived in such fear of her abductor that she could not even utter a word when out in public.
Reading each of these escape accounts, some overriding themes begin to emerge. All of the victims were held in place by their captors by mental and physical means. They preyed upon their fears of death or attacks on loved ones. In almost all cases of escape, none of the victims attempted an escape, and did what they had to adapt to their circumstances. There were also no quick releases as most of the victims endured long stays with the abductors.
The final case that reinforces these points happened to the only male kidnap victim in this group, Shawn Hornbeck. He was grabbed in a St. Louis suburb by Michael Devlin. Devlin had no plans to keep the boy alive long, and tried to strangle Shawn to death. As Hornbeck pleaded for his life, he told Devlin he would never try to escape and would tell no one what happened. Devlin let him live, which got him two life sentences when Hornbeck was found five years later. In the end, each of these fortunate victims lived because they did not lose their cool and panic. They bided their time, adapted to their situation, and waited for the moment when they might taste freedom again.