Three women who were held in a Cleveland home for a decade broke their silence Tuesday, issuing a YouTube video thanking the public for their encouragement and financial support.
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight said that the support of their families, friends, and the public is helping them rebuild their lives after what Berry called "this ordeal" and what Knight called "hell."
"I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and my head held high," Knight said. "I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don't want to be consumed by hatred."
WATCH THE VIDEO: http://youtu.be/oG0WePdZoxg
DeJesus' parents joined their daughter on camera to thank the public for donations to a fund set up to support the women and urged families of missing people to reach out to their neighbors for assistance.
"I would say thank you for the support," DeJesus said.
Berry, DeJesus, and Knight went missing between 2002 and 2004 at the ages of 14, 16, and 20, respectively. They were found May 6 after Berry broke through a door at the two-story home where the women were being held and yelled to neighbors for help.
"First and foremost, I want everyone to know how happy I am to be home with my family and my friends," Berry said during the 31 seconds she spent speaking. "It's been unbelievable."
Ariel Castro, a former bus driver, has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment alleging he kidnapped the women and held them in his house. Castro fathered a 6-year-old daughter with Berry and is accused of starving and punching Knight, causing her to miscarry five times.
"I'm getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely," Berry said. "I ask that everyone continues to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life."
Knight read for 40 seconds in the video, saying she wants "everyone to know I'm doing just fine" and that she is building a "brand new life."
The video was filmed July 2 and released on a YouTube channel under the name of Hennes Paynter Communications, a Cleveland-based crisis management and media training firm.
Kathy Joseph, an attorney for Knight, said in a statement to The Associated Press that the three women wanted to "say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world, now that two months have passed."
She said they're being recognized in public, "so they decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages."
James Wooley, attorney for Berry and DeJesus, also issued a statement saying Knight and his clients thank people for the privacy they've been given and do not want to discuss their case with the news media or anyone else.
Twin Cities-based Victims of Torture works to help abuse victims across the globe recover, and Clinical Advisor Erin Morgan the video statement from the trio "tough" to watch.
"It's clear that they're grateful for the support they're getting. It's clear they are seeing themselves make progress. Yet, you can also see that they're struggling," Morgan said.
Morgan said the key to recovering from years of abuse involves teaching victims that the abuse is just a part of their life and does not define who they are.
"The goal of that is to lessen that impact and that intensity over time," she explained.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.