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Specially Trained FBI Agents Will Help Kidnapped Women Heal


When Charles Ramsey talked with a 911 operator about the woman he'd found, the operator had this question.


INSKEEP: Put yourself in her shoes.

NPR's Carrie Johnson reports law enforcement is trying to do just that.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: A specially trained team of FBI experts has arrived in Cleveland to interview Amanda Berry, her six year old daughter, and two other missing women who emerged from that white house on Seymour Avenue.

FBI Special Agent Steve Anthony says they've got a lot of work to do.

STEPHEN ANTHONY: Much of the effort that we have that we're going to be doing over the next several days is going to be focusing on them. How could we in law enforcement help speed the healing and the recovery process and treat them with the dignity and the respect that they deserve?

JOHNSON: That means making sure those victims get the care they need - physical and emotional. For now, the FBI says, the young women are overwhelmed, secluded with close family members outside the public eye. But they are in touch with counselors who work for Kathryn Turman in an FBI office dedicated to helping victims of crime. Thurmond spoke with NPR two years ago about the people she serves.

KATHRYN TURMAN: There are so many things that we can't do for them. We can't alleviate their loss, but we do try to provide for those practical needs. And a lot of it starts with information.

JOHNSON: Mai Fernandez says law enforcement is better equipped to help nowadays. She leads the National Center for Victims of Crime, a nonprofit group that's advocated for victims for nearly 30 years.

MAI FERNANDEZ: Police forces have gotten much more sensitive to it. Prosecutors have gotten more sensitive to it. And the idea that you need to work with this person as, you know, a fragile human being I think really the whole criminal justice system is looking more at what the victim's needs are.

JOHNSON: And in this case in Cleveland, Fernandez says, there are really tough issues in play.

FERNANDEZ: We have a child involved here. And the sensitivity around that is tremendous. This child has probably never really known anything but the captivity that they've been experiencing all this time.

JOHNSON: In a way, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, imprisoned for more than 10 years, have already beaten the odds. The FBI opens an average of 80 child abduction cases every year, but only about half of those victims are recovered alive. FBI agent Steve Anthony.

ANTHONY: These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin.

JOHNSON: Advocates and other young women who have lived through that kind of horror say they need privacy most of all, even though the whole country wants to hear their stories. Mai Fernandez...

FERNANDEZ: Victims are resilient. People can come out of this and be healthy, productive human beings afterwards. But we need to give them the time and the space to be able to do this.

JOHNSON: The FBI is working overtime to recover evidence from the house in Cleveland and undertake the delicate process of interviewing the victims about what happened there. FBI officials say they'll stay as long as they're needed. Authorities could file criminal charges against the men suspected in the kidnappings in the next day or two. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.


While three women were saved in Cleveland, other people do remain missing.

INSKEEP: Cleveland alone has dozens of active missing persons cases - among them the case of Ashley Summers. The FBI previously thought her disappearance was connected to two of the women found this week.

GREENE: She disappeared just blocks from where they did in 2007 at the age of 14.

INSKEEP: A chance to call attention to those still missing came last night. A kidnapping survivor, Jaycee Dugard, happened to be honored last night by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

JAYCEE DUGARD: What an amazing time to be talking about hope, with everything that's happening.

GREENE: She was missing for 18 years before she was found in 2009.

INSKEEP: Now, of the three women rescued this week, Dugard said, quote: "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." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
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