Last night, a special edition of ABC News’ 20/20 aired featuring Cleveland kidnapping survivors Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry, who just marked the two-year anniversary of their escape.


The interview was released in tandem with the duo’s book, Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland, co-written with Washington Post journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan. The focus is so trained on DeJesus and Berry that you almost forget there was a third victim, Michelle Knight: she was the first to be kidnapped, in 2002, and possibly treated the worst of the three captives (she was, among other things, subjected to five forced miscarriages). Knight released her own book in 2014, and has done her own press. Roberts touched on her absence with Berry, who said, “We don’t really keep in touch, but I wish her the best.”

The special incorporates interviews with Berry and DeJesus, family members, and law enforcement officials to recreate their story: how they were kidnapped, what life was like in captivity, how they escaped, what life is like now. It is set up, in typical 20/20 fashion, to be sensational, a bit schmaltzy. Bleak, but not gritty. Robin Roberts cries. Both Berry and DeJesus are soft-spoken and quick to smile; there are several shots of one of the women tracing a stencil that says “Hope.”

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This narrative of “hope,” of “faith” as a savior, is grating—because sometimes, for a lot of victims of kidnapping and violence, hope is not enough. But here, it’s undeniably real, and totally heart-wrenching. Although there were a few missed chances, Amanda Berry managed to escape with her daughter on the first day in 10 years Castro left her bedroom door unlocked. It’s difficult to imagine the kind of tenacity it would take to still care after a full decade in captivity, after so much violence and fear, to not be too entirely broken to take a risk.

At one point, Roberts dives into the harrowing details of the early days of Berry’s kidnapping; for instance, she watched on a tiny television set as her family pleaded on air for her return; later, she watched her mother appear on the Montell Williams show, only to have psychic Sylvia Brown tell her that her daughter was dead. Berry’s mother died before she was able to escape. The question of forgiveness is brought up, for some reason, and while Berry says she could never forgive Castro, DeJesus believes she has to forgive in order to move on. But, she added, “I wish he wouldn’t have killed himself, because I wanted him to suffer, like we did.”

Watch the full special here.

Image via ABC News.


Contact the author at ellie@jezebel.com.