Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, Michele Knight: Sexism, Racism Kept Cleveland Women Captive


When I first heard about the escape of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight from a decade of captivity in a Cleveland home, I was overjoyed for the freed women and their families.

However, in the past 24 hours, as reporters interview neighbors and ferret out police reports, this joy has been transformed to nearly incandescent anger.

I am angry because the Cleveland police did not take a neighbor’s reports of a “naked woman crawling on all fours” seriously. As far as the neighbor can tell, the police never followed up on her phone call. I am angry because when another neighbor contacted the police about a woman’s screaming coming from the house, the police again did nothing.

I am angry because although the chief suspect Ariel Castro has a record of attempted child abduction, the police never searched his home.

I am angry because the Cleveland police’s indifferent and/or willfully incompetent conduct is being repeated today and every day in other poor neighborhoods where people of color live.

I am angry because the Cleveland police’s behavior is a direct result of our sexist culture in which women are regarded and treated as lesser citizens whose lives do not matter. This is even truer for women of color.

I am angry because our society encourages rape and abuse by consistently devaluing women and girls.

I am angry because as a woman, I have to worry about my personal safety every moment of every day.

I am angry because the Cleveland home is just one of many literal or figurative “houses of horror” for women and girls across our country and world.

I am angry because somewhere right now, another woman or girl is being held against her will and being raped, assaulted, and abused.

I am angry because even if someone hears her cry and reports it the police, there might be no action taken to save her.

I am angry because lives, particularly those of women and people of color, are not valued equally in our society.

I am angry because what happened in Cleveland will happen again.