Human Rights

One good thing came from Amanda Berry’s kidnapping, and her name is Jocelyn

Amanda Berry, center, with her sister and her daughter Jocelyn.

A black dish-washer from Cleveland with a Big Mac in one hand can be a hero, and a child born of rape can be anything she wants to be.

Amanda Berry, center, with her sister and her daughter Jocelyn.

Amanda Berry, center, with her sister and her daughter Jocelyn. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The facts are still being sorted out in the case of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, the three women who escaped from their kidnappers in Cleveland this week, with the help of natural-born comedian and neighbor Charles Ramsey, who came to Amanda’s rescue clutching a Big Mac.

According to Ramsey, after he and another neighbor kicked in the bottom of the front door, Amanda came through the hole holding a little girl. Ramsey described her as being about nine or ten, but she was actually six, and Amanda’s daughter. Her name is Jocelyn, and she was born on Christmas Day. In Ramsey’s account, Amanda described the girl as “his daughter,” referring to her kidnapper, Ariel Castro.

From the little we now know, it appears that the three women were kept as sex slaves for the three brothers, Ariel, Pedro, and Onil Castro. According to USA Today:

Police Chief Michael McGrath said Wednesday that the three young women, during their ordeal, had been “bound and there were chains and ropes in the hall.”

With three women being raped repeatedly for a decade, there were bound to be pregnancies.

The Castro brothers allegedly forced all three women to have sex, resulting in up to five pregnancies, according to a report by Cleveland’s WKYC-TV. The station, quoting unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that the Castros also beat the women while they were pregnant, with several fetuses not surviving. Police did not publicly confirm the report.

In addition, Khalid Samad, a former assistant safety director for the city, said law enforcement officials told him that the women were beaten while pregnant, with several miscarrying, and that a dungeon of sorts with chains was in the home.

If true, this is perhaps the most unfortunate and repulsive aspect of the kidnapping of these women: not only were they abducted, restrained, and raped repeatedly for ten years, but they were beaten until they lost their children.

Abortion is a handy method for covering up the results of sexual assault and incest. Its legality has no doubt saved many a perpetrator from discovery over the years. The fetus, after all, is evidence, and her destruction vital to keeping a rapist free from punishment, or free to rape again.

In the case of Amanda, Gina, and Michelle, the Castro brothers had to resort to other methods, since taking them out of the home to a clinic was out of the question. So they allegedly beat them until they miscarried the babies. It’s not a surgical abortion, but it’s also not a natural miscarriage. These were induced abortions in their most primitive form.

Fortunately, none of the women died from this treatment, and Amanda and Jocelyn survived pregnancy and birth, ostensibly without medical care.

We know very little about this case yet, and certainly many new facts will be revealed. But I am wondering about this girl, Jocelyn, allegedly conceived in rape, born of a captive mother, and rescued by that mother. In the photo of Amanda and her sister in the hospital, one of Amanda’s arms is around her sister, the other around Jocelyn, who lies in a hospital bed, smiling. She is a lovely child. She looks content. She looks like she knows she is safe.

Did Amanda’s love for Jocelyn keep her motivated to survive and escape? Did Jocelyn’s rapist father come to love her? Or did he abuse her, too?

To me, Jocelyn is the most intriguing aspect of this case. She brings up questions that haven’t yet been answered, and hopefully will be soon. But whatever we discover, two things are clear:

  1. Amanda loves her daughter. She could have left her behind. Instead, she came out of her captor’s home holding Jocelyn, and on the 911 call can be heard comforting her. “Sweetheart, it’s okay,” you can hear her say to the crying girl.
  2. Jocelyn, a child conceived in rape, has a chance at a good life now. She is a perfect illustration of the point the pro-life movement continually makes about so-called “unwanted” children and those born into “impossible” circumstances: nothing is impossible.

I have high hopes for Jocelyn, and for Charles Ramsey. When most of us think “hero,” we think of a soldier or a firefighter, yet not only did this regular Joe go to the aid of a stranger, he also eschewed the idea of a reward. “I tell you what you do, give it to them,” he said of the victims in an interview with CNN. “Where are them girls living? Right next door to this paycheck. So yes, take that reward and give it to — that little girl came out the house and she was crying.” He couldn’t sleep, he said, knowing he’d been living right next door to the victims for a year and hadn’t helped.

Charles Ramsey proves the same thing as Jocelyn: the victim can be rescued, the poverty can be beaten, the abuse can be overcome. Circumstances do not dictate what kind of life a person will lead. A black dish-washer from Cleveland with a Big Mac in one hand can be a hero, and a child born of rape can be anything she wants to be.

As long as there is life, there is hope.

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