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

By Julie Cannold, CNN
July 9, 2013 -- Updated 1406 GMT (2206 HKT)
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, 2013, 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, 2013, 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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Part of complete coverage on
Ohio women found
May 14, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Michelle Knight wasn't the only one being held by Ariel Castro. But she knew she was different.
May 6, 2014 -- Updated 1605 GMT (0005 HKT)
Michelle Knight remembers exactly how Ariel Castro lured her into his home.
November 7, 2013 -- Updated 0007 GMT (0807 HKT)
Michelle Knight squeezes her eyes shut and cries as she listens to the 911 call that led police to rescue her from the house where Ariel Castro held her hostage for more than a decade.
September 4, 2013 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
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August 1, 2013 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus weren't in the courtroom. But their diaries gave authorities a window into the horror they suffered for a decade.
August 4, 2013 -- Updated 1737 GMT (0137 HKT)
They were living in hell, and Ariel Castro did all he could to make sure they'd never escape it.
August 5, 2013 -- Updated 1038 GMT (1838 HKT)
Michelle Knight, one of three women kidnapped by Ariel Castro, returned Friday to the Cleveland house where she was chained up and tormented for 11 years, a neighbor said.
August 1, 2013 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
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.
August 2, 2013 -- Updated 1354 GMT (2154 HKT)
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August 2, 2013 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
From the outside, the home at 2207 Seymour Avenue looked like most any other in Cleveland's Westside neighborhood.
July 9, 2013 -- Updated 1406 GMT (2206 HKT)
For the first time since their rescue, the world is hearing directly from the three women who were held captive in Cleveland for a decade.
August 2, 2013 -- Updated 0757 GMT (1557 HKT)
For his victims, Thursday was roughly a decade in coming.
May 10, 2013 -- Updated 0025 GMT (0825 HKT)
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August 1, 2013 -- Updated 1710 GMT (0110 HKT)
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May 13, 2013 -- Updated 1055 GMT (1855 HKT)
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May 19, 2013 -- Updated 1537 GMT (2337 HKT)
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Ariel Castro's brothers say he's "a monster" who should rot in jail and they "want the world to know" they had no idea their brother was holding women captive.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 0114 GMT (0914 HKT)
Two were just teenagers when they were kidnapped, but the three women have finally been found a decade later.
May 8, 2013 -- Updated 0933 GMT (1733 HKT)
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.
May 10, 2013 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
His Cleveland neighbors are trying to come with grips with the two personas -- the first, they thought they knew, the other, the one that authorities describe.
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