Trigger Warning for torture and rape.

Extract printed with permission from Penguin Books UK and Penguin Books SA. Starts from page 114 and ends at the bottom of Page 115.

In May 2013, a man by the name of Ariel Castro made headlines after being arrested on the kidnapping and rape charges of three women, namely Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Georgina DeJesus.

The kidnapping and rape is not the most unusual aspect surrounding his arrest. What actually dominated the headlines, was the fact that he held these women hostage for 10 years before they were rescued after a neighbour finally heard their cries for help.

The women were immediately taken to a medical centre where all three, plus Amanda Berry's child - DNA tests confirmed that the girl was 'fathered' by Castro, were examined and given proper medical care.

The extract below recounts some of what Michelle Knight experienced.  

Interesting side note: Allan Hall also wrote Monster, a book about the Josef Fritzl case.

Captive by Allan Hall

Because of what happened to Natascha Kampusch and to Elisabeth Fritzl and her cellar children in Austria we are able to fathom some of the anxieties Castro’s captives faced and the coping strategies they developed to overcome them.

But we were not there when babies were beaten from the womb of Michelle, nor when she was chained to a pole in Castro’s terrifying basement torture chamber, nor when similar indignities were heaped on her fellow inmates.

Empathy – the singular human quality missing from the flawed mind of Ariel Castro – is what is needed to comprehend what he did to these young women in that house during those times.

What must have Michelle thought when she walked into the grimy front room of Ariel Castro’s, believing she was only going to stop for a few minutes on her way home?

‘Shorty’, as she was known among her friends – she is only 4 feet 7 inches tall – would have noticed the empty fast-food cartons sprawled among the instruments and music sheets littering the room.

The light would have been filtered by the heavy plastic sheeting tacked over the windows – what was that all about? – and she would probably have spotted the padlocks hanging on the doors.

‘Can’t be too careful these days, sugar,’ joked the monster, ‘what with all these criminals about.’

And then it began.

Michelle was bludgeoned and dragged upstairs to what would become her cell. Later the same day, he tied her and frogmarched her down into the basement where he had installed a pole which ran from the ceiling to the floor and was held in place by steel bolts.

The following day, in the language of the indictment:

[Castro] did engage in sexual conduct, to wit: sexual intercourse with Jane Doe 1 by purposely compelling her to submit by force or threat of force (first sexual assault of Jane Doe 1).

The rape torture had started. It would continue for Michelle for almost eleven more years. She was left naked, shackled to the pole, throughout that long first night.

He had punched her repeatedly in the head and there were bruises all over her body.

A small window in the basement was lined with the same dark plastic sheeting as she had seen in the living room and was overlaid with wooden board and chicken wire.

She could hear the tyres of cars squelching on the hot asphalt outside, but she made no sound: Castro had told her that to do so would result in another beating and a gag.

Michelle, easily confused at the best of times in normal situations, was overwhelmed by what had befallen her.

This was a man who drove a bus for schoolkids. He was taking her home. How did she end up here?

In her panic and terror she began to have visions in the damp, earth-smelling cellar where mould grew on the walls and the cold seeped into her bones.

Hers was a loneliness usually only experienced by captured soldiers or convicts in solitary confinement – but at least they might be expected to anticipate such eventualities because of the lives they chose to lead.

She was an innocent, lost in the grip of emotions she could neither understand nor control.

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