By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Nearly two years after they escaped the Cleveland house where they were held for years, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus said in a memoir published Monday that they were stronger than the former school bus driver who abducted them.
Berry and DeJesus, now 29 and 25 respectively, and Michelle Knight, now 34, escaped in May 2013 from Ariel Castro and his Cleveland house, which has been demolished.
"We have written about terrible things that we never wanted to think about again," Berry and DeJesus said in the preface to "Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland," which describes their ordeal and their efforts to reclaim their lives.
"Now we want the world to know: We survived, we are free, we love life. We were stronger than Ariel Castro."
Castro fathered a girl with Berry and violently forced Knight to miscarry multiple times. He pleaded guilty to hundreds of charges including rape, kidnapping and murder, and then hanged himself in September 2013 after serving one month of a life sentence.
Knight, who Castro kidnapped first and who testified at his sentencing hearing, published a memoir last year.
Berry and DeJesus described in painful detail Castro's sexual and psychological abuse over more than 300 pages, relying heavily on 1,200 diary entries Berry wrote during her captivity. Berry initially wrote in her diary every time Castro attacked her, but said she eventually stopped counting.
"I want him someday, somehow to be held responsible for every single time he steals a piece of me," Berry wrote.
Berry recorded Castro's excitement at the birth of their daughter Jocelyn on Christmas in 2006 and how he doted on the girl without thinking about the pain he caused the Berry and DeJesus families or the women.
Castro had pitted the women against each other, but the girl's birth brought a strange normalization and inspired them, they said. In 2009, Castro removed the chains they had worn since their abductions so Jocelyn would not ask questions.
"She made a dark place brighter, and in many ways helped save us," they wrote.
Berry said she has become less afraid in the past year, although her memories are like a scary movie playing over in her head.
DeJesus said she tries new things and goes to new places, aiming to think about what is now and next and not the past.
"Some days it's easy. Others, not," DeJesus said.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by David Bailey and Lisa Lambert)