WASHINGTON (AP) – Kidnapping survivors Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart have words of wisdom for the three women found this week in Cleveland years after their disappearances.
Dugard was abducted from a California bus stop in 1991 at age 11 and was held captive for 18 years in a backyard, where she gave birth to two children conceived by rape. She made an oblique reference Tuesday to the Cleveland case as she accepted an award in Washington from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“What an amazing time to be talking about hope, with everything that’s happening,” she said in her brief remarks.
She urged the hundreds of people at the annual awards gala not to give up on missing children.
“Just urge yourself to care,” she said.
The Cleveland women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, disappeared about a decade ago, when they were in their teens or early 20s. They were rescued Monday after Berry kicked out the bottom portion of a locked screen door and used a neighbor’s telephone to call 911. The owner of the home and his two brothers have been arrested, but no charges have been filed.
Dugard, in a statement released earlier through her publicist, said the women need a chance to heal and reconnect with the world. She said that the human spirit is resilient and that the case reaffirms that people should never give up hope.
Dugard’s mother, Terry Probyn, said in Washington that she understood what the relatives of the Cleveland victims were going through.
“I feel the same relief and the same joy that I felt when Jaycee was returned to me safely after 18 hellish years,” she said. “I never doubted for one minute that I would someday be reunited with my daughter.”
The CEO of the center, John Ryan, praised the vigilance of investigators in Cleveland, saying they followed up on tips and never forgot about the missing women.
“There are other missing children out there that are only a phone call away from getting away from their predators,” Ryan said. “I have every hope and confidence that this will lead to future recoveries.”
Police paid visits to the Cleveland house after reports of a naked woman seen crawling in the backyard a few years ago and also after a neighbor heard pounding on the doors and noticed plastic bags over the windows. The department is conducting an internal review to determine whether anything was overlooked.
Ryan said the three women would likely be honored by his group.
“I think they’re going to be at the top of the list,” he said.
Smart, in comments Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” said she was overjoyed to hear about the happy ending for the Cleveland women.
She said the ordeal highlights the importance of the public staying alert and vigilant. She advised the women to focus on moving forward and let go of the past. She said it’s important for others to respect the privacy of those women as they recover from the decade-long ordeal.
Smart was kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City when she was 14. She was freed nine months later when she was found walking with her captor on a suburban street in March 2003.
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