Amanda Berry surprise appearance onstage a step toward 'normal life'

Amanda Berry, who was one of three women held captive for a decade in a Cleveland house, on Saturday made her first public appearance since being freed. Amanda Berry joined rapper Nelly onstage at a music festival. 

Courtesy Brian Harrell/AP
Amanda Berry (2nd l.), one of three women held captive in a Cleveland home for a decade, makes a surprise appearance at the RoverFest concert in Cleveland. Berry appeared at a public event for the first time since her rescue, a day after her abductor pleaded guilty in the case. The rapper Nelly called Berry back to the stage after his music set.

For victims of the sort of trauma that three kidnapped Cleveland women faced, held in captivity and sexually abused for a decade, the biggest challenge can be just "figuring out what's normal," says University of California at Irvine psychologist Jodi Quas.

This weekend, Amanda Berry showed the world that she is apparently learning that lesson quite well.

The first public appearance by any of the three women turned out to be a surprise visit by Ms. Berry to the stage of the RoverFest music festival in Cleveland as rapper Nelly was performing Saturday night. Berry didn't say anything, but she later returned and Nelly dedicated a song to her.

Reports of the event by the Cleveland Plain Dealer say Berry got the loudest applause of the night.

Berry disappeared from her Cleveland neighborhood in 2003 at age 16. A year earlier, Michelle Knight disappeared at age 21, and a year later 14-year-old Gina DeJesus went missing. On Friday, Ariel Castro admitted to kidnapping and sexually abusing them in a plea deal that spared him the death penalty but assigned him a life sentence without parole, plus another 1,000 years in prison. Paternity tests have showed that Mr. Castro fathered a 6-year-old daughter with Berry.

The deal also ensured that the women would not have to testify at a trial, something they sought to avoid.

It is not known if the timing of public appearance one day after Castro's plea was significant or coincidental, but it was noteworthy. Berry and Ms. DeJesus, in particular, were abducted so young that they are now just learning how to live their lives.

"The 14-year-old was really at a transitional period in her life" when she was kidnapped, Professor Quas told the International Business Times.

At the festival, Berry appeared at ease and happy, smiling and dancing to the music. Her appearance marks part of the three women's slow return to public life. Earlier this month, they released a video in which they offered thanks for the support they and their families have received before and after Berry escaped Castro's home and called 911 on May 6. 

"I'm getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely," Berry said on the video. "I ask that everyone continue to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life."

Saturday night, it seems, was another step in the right direction.

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