Kidnapping victims Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard offer words of encouragement to the three Cleveland women.
(Image source: ABC / The Salt Lake Tribune ) BY ELIZABETH HAGEDORN There may be only a handful of people who can come close to understanding what’s going through the minds of the three Cleveland women recently freed after being held captive for more than a decade. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were found alive Monday in a Cleveland home — this, after vanishing when they were teenagers a decade ago. Police have taken three brothers into custody in connection with the kidnapping. (Via HLN ) As investigators work to put the pieces together, a long recovery process lies ahead for the victims — something Elizabeth Smart knows a thing or two about. Smart became a household name in 2002 when she was taken from her bedroom in Salt Lake City and held captive for nine months. On CNN Tuesday, Smart offered some advice to the kidnapping survivors. (Via KUTV ) “Nothing that has happened to them will ever diminish their value and that should never hold back from doing what they want to do. They should still follow their dreams... follow the life that they wanted to have.” In a story much like the Cleveland case, Jaycee Dugard, then eleven-years-old, was kidnapped, raped and held hostage for 18 years after being taken while walking home from a school bus in South Lake Tahoe. She eventually bore two of her kidnapper’s children. (Via NBC ) In a statement, Dugard stressed the need to give the women time to adjust. “These individuals need the opportunity to heal and connect back into the world. This isn’t who they are. It is only what happened to them. The human spirit is incredibly resilient. More [than] ever this reaffirms we should never give up hope.'' (Via KNTV ) Dugard documented her story in a book titled “A Stolen Life: A Memoir” in 2011, and Smart has her own foundation, created to raise awareness of crimes against children. (Via ABC ) According to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children an estimated 115 children in the U.S. are abducted by strangers every year.