She Was Captive for a Decade. But 'He Couldn't Break Me'

Michelle Knight on Ariel Castro and making the most of life
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2020 12:03 PM CST
Updated Jan 5, 2020 3:30 PM CST
She Was Captive for a Decade. But 'He Couldn't Break Me'
In this June 26, 2014, file photo, Michelle Knight smiles during an interview in Cleveland.   (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

There's no need to be pessimistic about 2020. "You can overcome all obstacles that stand in your way," says Michelle Knight, who experienced more than enough hardships before spending 11 years as Ariel Castro's sex slave in Cleveland. "You name it, I went through it," Knight tells ABC News, describing a childhood that included being sexually abused by a relative and cooking a hot dog over a space heater for four hours just to get a warm meal because "we didn't have a stove." At 14, she was living in a garbage can. At 18, she gave birth to a son, but he was later put in foster care. She was 21 and desperate to regain custody when the father of a friend offered to drive her to a case management meeting in 2002. Instead, Castro drove Knight to his home. "He said, 'You're not gonna leave for a long time.' And then he starts undressing."

With each assault, "I had to put myself in a different place," says Knight, echoing what another of Castro's victims, Amanda Berry, described as an effort to "numb" herself, per Good Morning America. But even after what Knight says were five pregnancies violently ended by Castro, "he couldn't break me." Hardships continued after Castro's arrest in 2013. Knight says she was in such ill health that doctors told her she had 48 hours to live. Still, she sang and danced through treatment, "trying to make the best of the life that I had left." She still is. Now with a "sweetheart" of an adopted father and a husband who "showed me that life doesn't have to be horrible," Knight is launching a nonprofit to support victims of abuse. Every victim of tragedy "needs to see the sunrise," she says. "Don't let the darkness control your light in your life." (More Michelle Knight stories.)

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