The three women who were held captive in a Cleveland house for a decade spoke to the public for the first time in a YouTube video released Monday.
In the three-minute, 30-second video, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight thanked the public for their support and donations, and also asked that people respect their privacy as they rebuild their lives.
The women were kidnapped separately by Ariel Castro between 2002 and 2004 and were trapped in his home until a neighbor heard their cries for help in May. Police freed the women, along with Berry's 6-year-old daughter, and Castro, 52, was indicted on more than 300 charges, including kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder for forcing Knight to abort a child after he impregnated her. He has pleaded not guilty.
"I'm getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely," Berry says in the video. "I ask that everyone continues to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life."
DeJesus appeared on camera with her parents and briefly thanked the public for their support. Her mother, Nancy Ruiz, thanked her neighbors and those in her community for helping her family through the ordeal. She urged those who have a loved one missing to count on their neighbors.
"Don't be afraid to ask for the help," she says. "Because help is available."
Knight appeared on camera for about half of the video and said she is "doing just fine" and is excited to start her "brand new life."
"I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high," Knight says. "I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don't want to be consumed by hatred."
In a pre-trial hearing last week, Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo deemed Castro, a former school bus driver, mentally fit to stand trial.
During his appearance in court, Castro answered Russo's questions with simple phrases and one-word answers, except when he asked to visit with the 6-year-old child he fathered with Berry.
Russo said he would not allow Castro to see the child during the trial proceedings, according to NBC News.
"I just think that would be inappropriate," Russo said.
Castro remains jailed on a $8 million bond and is scheduled to appear in court for a hearing on July 24. His trial is set for Aug. 5, but Russo said it could be delayed, according to The Associated Press.