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Sunday 4 June 2023 Dublin: 18°C
AP/Press Association Images Michelle Knight in the courtroom during the sentencing phase for Ariel Castro.
# Survival story
'I was the punching bag, the sex toy, the maid' - Michelle Knight describes life being held by Ariel Castro
Knight spoke to RTÉ about her 11 years in captivity in which she became pregnant five times.

Updated 11pm

“A DAY IN the basement was like pure hell.” That is how one of the women held captive for over a decade has described her experience at the hands of Ariel Castro.

In an interview with the Today with Sean O’Rourke programme on RTÉ Radio 1, Michelle Knight detailed her incredibly horrific 11-year ordeal in the Cleveland house in which she was held.

Knight described how she was lured to the house by Castro when he promised to give her directions. When she was taken into his house she realised it was too late:

He told me I didn’t have to worry there was nothing going to happen. I still had an eerie feeling and but it was already too late, I was already upstairs. That’s when he shut the door and I ended up spending 11 years in that house.

She explained how she fell to the floor at that moment and became completely numb.

“That day he took my arms and my legs, tied them with extension cord and put me on the wall, kind of like an ornament. Kind of like a fish hanging on the wall,” she remembers.

Cleveland Kidnap Survivors AP / Press Association Images Survivors Amanda Berry, right, and Georgina DeJesus, left. AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

She said she was kept there for perhaps a week or a month before being brought down to his basement. There she was made to wear a motorcycle helmet for weeks on end. She couldn’t breath properly or tell the time of day and was slipping in and out of consciousness:

A day in the basement was like pure hell. Everytime I turned around he was bothering me for sex. What to do and how to do it. How to function. If I hadn’t done what he said, he would have killed me.

For the first eight months she was not allowed to wash herself at all. She described to interviewer Keelin Shanley how she cut off her hair to try and remove some of the dirt and evidence of what she was going through.

Two other women were also women found alive after the decade of captivity endured inside the dingy home where they were raped and allowed outside only a handful of times in disguises.

Knight described how life never became easier when she was moved from the basement to the house:

Nothing really improved, everything really got so much worse. He never really eased up on me. I was always the one who was the punching bag, the sex toy, the maid, I was everything to him.

Knight was the first of the three women to be abducted and said that when she realised there was another woman living in the house she felt as though she might be able to make a friend and have someone to talk to.

Knight became pregnant five times to Castro during her time in the house and each time she was beaten by him until she miscarried.

“He would sit there and beat me and starve me,” she says “He would literally knock me down the stairs to make sure the baby was gone, and if it didn’t work he’d treat me worse and do it again until the baby was gone.”

Top Stories Ohio AP / Press Association Images Ariel Castro killed himself the month after he was sentenced to life in prison. AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images


She also described during the course of the interview how she acted as a mid-wife while another one of the women, Amanda Berry, gave birth to a child as a result of being raped by Castro.

Knight described how on the day that she was being freed she didn’t really believe what was happening:

I thought we were being broken into, I really didn’t think nothing of it until I heard ‘police’, but anyone can say police. It took me a while before I grasped the reality that we were actually going home. When I realised it I ran into that lady’s arms and told her to never let me go.

Knight has written a book, Finding Me, about her experience, in which she never mentions Castro by name, referring to him as “dude”, something she also did during her captivity.

Castro, who was sentenced to life in prison, was found dead in his prison cell a month after sentencing.

 - First published 1.40pm

Read: Ohio kidnapper Ariel Castro may have died in sex act, not suicide >
Read: Ariel Castro sentenced to life without parole >

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