After being held captive for nearly 10 years, the young women who were kidnapped in Cleveland, Ohio, have a long road ahead of them.
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight must learn how to move forward and deal with the trauma and torture they endured until they were found May 6. Steven Orenstein, LMFT, who has worked with countless victims of rape and child abuse, tells HollywoodLife.com that “feeling safe” is of the utmost importance for the women.
“Without a doubt, all of these women are experiencing post traumatic stress disorder,” says Steven Orenstein, co-founder of Neurdevelopmental Learning Institute in Playa del Rey, Calif. “They endured emotional and mental manipulation and sexual abuse. The captors instilled fear in them not to leave, that if they did attempt to escape, they would be murdered and or tortured. They were definitely brainwashed into believing this.”
“They were tortured for 9 years,” Steven adds. “It’s amazing how anyone could survive that. Right now they all have a protective layer over them–a coping mechanism. That’s what they used to survive. Once that layer is slowly removed, they will begin to experience episodes of depression and stress. … The trauma doesn’t go away. What’s most important for these young girls is to learn how to cope with the trauma. What to do when the stress is triggered.”
Steps For Healing From Trauma & Torture
“It’s vital that the girls feel safe,” Steven says. “Reuniting with their families will help them. They need all the support they can get right now, and of course, they need professional help. It’s very important that they get into therapy so they can heal and move forward. … They have been dehydrated and malnourished, another form of torture. So the girls need to be properly nourished.”
“The girls need time to express themselves and their emotions,” he adds. “They shouldn’t feel rushed or forced to talk. … They have had to shut down certain parts of their psyche in order to survive. It will take some time for the girls to fully open up, so others must be patient with them and give them the space and time that they need.”
“You need to take into consideration that there is a bond between all the girls; they all survived together,” he says. “They have to go back to their own lives. They have to separate from each other, and professionals can help them do this. They were a family for almost ten years and depended on each other.”
Family Members Also Suffering
“The family members have also experienced a tremendous amount of trauma, so they need support right now,” Steven explains. “Therapists specializing in trauma can help family members best deal with the mixed emotions of gratitude, anger, rage, sadness.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with Amanda, Gina, Michelle and their families. We’re so grateful that they’ve been found after all these years.
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