Cleveland Kidnap Victims Step Out, but Experts Advise Caution

PHOTO: Amanda Berry and Nelly onstage at Roverfest

Former Cleveland captives Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus have been increasingly visible in recent weeks, after lying low in the immediate aftermath of their escape and rescue three months ago.

Experts say the public appearances might be signs of resilience and recovery, but also urge caution for the women and those around them.

"They've already experienced what we call abnormal circumstances that were negative so now it's sort of out of the pot and into the frying pan," a Drexel University youth counselor in Philadelphia with an expertise in foster care and trauma, told "Now they're dealing with abnormal experiences that may be positive, but they're still for the average person abnormal."

DeJesus, 23, rode on a vehicle Sunday as part of Cleveland's 45th annual Puerto Rican Parade and waving a Puerto Rican flag.

The day before, Knight, 32, visited with Travel Channel star Andrew Zimmern, who hosts the show "Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern." He was in Cleveland visiting a number of foodie hotspots.

Zimmern posted two photos on Instagram of himself and Knight, whom he called "one of my heroes" and "an inspiration."

He also wrote that "food is her first love..and her future!" He noted that avocado is her favorite ingredient and Latin flavors are "her go-to."

In an email today to, Zimmern said, "Michelle's visit with us was personal and reflects her passion for life, for food and her desire to move on, pursuing the things she loves doing. Beyond that her story is hers to share.

"From my own perspective, meeting her and sharing a meal was extraordinary. She is a strong young woman who impressed me very much."

Berry, 27, made an on-stage appearance at a music festival in July that garnered a lot of attention. Knight and DeJesus both separately visited Seymour Avenue last week, the street where they were held captive for a decade.

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"Going to the house and walking away could have been very powerful because for 10 years, they couldn't walk away and now they can," Therese Rando, a clinical psychologist at the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Loss in Warwick, Rhode Island, told

Rando, who has not had any contact with or treated any of the Cleveland women, emphasized that coping and recovery are individualized processes.

"The old axiom really applies here that one man's meat is another man's poison," she said. "Unlike if we were talking about how does a bone heal after it's been broken, when you're talking about the human psyche, the heart, the spirit, it is very different. There's not just one way it can go to heal."

Rando pointed to similar cases including Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard and Shawn Hornbeck who largely retreated into their families. Dugard was found in 2009, went into hiding with her two children and made her first major public appearance in 2012.

"It does on the surface appear to be much different from some of the other individuals who have been held captive that we have looked at in the national spotlight, but that doesn't mean it's good or bad. It's just different," Rando said.

She added that it is important to consider when the women were taken and at what point they were in their lives. Instagram, for example, wasn't around when Dugard and the others were rescued and the millennials were all robbed of most of their adolescence.

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