In August 2002, a homo sapiens known as Ariel Castro abducted 21-year-old Michelle Knight, the mother of a two-year-old boy. In April 2003, he abducted Amanda Berry, a day before her 17th birthday. And in April 2004, he abducted 14-year-old Gina DeJesus.
For the next ten years, these girls were regularly raped, kept in chains, beaten, humiliated, and almost never allowed to see the light of day. When Michelle Knight became pregnant, Castro starved her for two weeks and kicked and punched her in the stomach to induce an abortion. He repeated this method of pregnancy termination on Knight four additional times.
It is important to try to understand the magnitude of the sadism and other forms of cruelty and suffering inflicted by this creature.
First, there is the horror and suffering of being kidnapped; of being taken away from everyone you love. Even if no torture, rape, solitary confinement, etc. were involved, that would be enough to weep for these girls. And in Michelle’s case, she was taken from her baby boy, whom she never got to see grow up, and had every reason to fear she would never see again.
Second, there is the nightmare inflicted on the families. One day, their daughter, sister, and, in one case, mother, disappears — seemingly forever. Was she murdered? Had she suffered? Is she suffering now? Day after day, year after year, those questions haunted the families.
Third, now add the torture, beatings, grotesque humiliations, rapes, permanent state of terror, and confinement much of the time to a basement — for ten years.
Mercifully for us, we humans cannot completely assimilate the totality of the suffering of victims such as these three girls.
But we can at least intellectually perceive the monstrous behavior that went on in that Cleveland house.
Now, what about Castro?
What is he?
The answer is that he is a monster.
I use this word deliberately. Years ago, I interviewed a Holocaust survivor named Leon Radzik, whom I had known for decades. He told me, among many other such stories, of a young Jewish boy in the concentration camp who, because of the terrible hunger he was suffering, had licked a candy wrapper discarded by a Nazi guard. A guard noticed this and, taking offense at a Jew licking a candy wrapper that had been used by a German, took a shovel and slowly pushed the sharp edge into the boy’s neck until it severed his throat.
I asked my older friend how he explained such people. He had an immediate answer: “They were monsters that looked like humans.”
Ever since then, I have found that to be the most accurate way of describing the Nazi guards and the Ariel Castros of the world — monsters that look human.
Not everyone agrees.