Cuyahoga Falls -- Once she was lost, stopping by a store to ask directions when a chance encounter with a friend's father led to more than a decade of captivity and abuse. Today, Lily Rose Lee, the woman formerly known as Michelle Knight, has found her way as an advocate for other victims. Lee says she shares her story as a means of encouraging them to hold on and hope, even when the odds seem impossible. "They have the strength," she says, "it's within."
Lee spoke at Cuyahoga Falls High School on Friday. The Cleveland kidnapping victim says she is compelled to speak because, in doing so, she may be a lifeline for someone else. Half of the ticket sales from the event, which was hosted by the Six District Compact's Criminal Justice program, will be donated to the Battered Women's Shelter of Summit & Medina Counties. Lee answered questions submitted by the audience. Afterward, there was an opportunity for photos with her and she also signed copies of her book, "Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, A Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings," for those who brought along a copy.
Issac Baez, a specialized outreach advocate for the battered women's shelter, said 20 people per minute in the United States are victims of intimate partner violence, sexual violence or stalking. Lee recounted her first-hand experience. She was 21 when she became the first of three women kidnapped and held prisoner by Ariel Castro. At the time Lee had a 2-year-old son and she says Castro offered her both a ride and a promise of a puppy for Joey. The years ahead would be an endless cycle of sexual abuse, assault and torture; Lee confides there was one thing which helped her endure: "My son was my inspiration to stay alive. There were times I wanted to kill myself and wanted to give up on myself, but I chose not to because I felt within my heart if I gave up, I was giving up on my son. Surviving was thinking of my son and how I was going to come back to him and how we were going to have a happy life."
See the May 7 edition of the Cuyahoga Falls News-Press for the complete story.