Michelle Knight, one of the three women who escaped captivity from a Cleveland house of horrors last year, says she’s changed her name and distanced herself from the other captives.
Knight told People magazine she changed her name to “Lily” and has parted ways from Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, the two other women who were freed from Ariel Castro’s decade long captivity.
“I love them and they love me,” Knight said. “Hopefully we’ll all get back together again.”
One expert says it’s a smart move for the 33-year-old, still reeling from more than a decade of horrific sexual, emotional and physical abuse.
“One of the things that happen very commonly with persons like Michelle who are held in captivity, is that there tends to be an inherent loss of sense of self,” Dr. Prakash Masand, a New York City psychiatrist, told ABCNews.com. “There’s a sense of hopelessness, that your life has no value.”
Creating a new life is one way people cope, he said.
“It’s not surprising that some individuals will deal with it by literally trying to create a new identity so that this new identity is not associated with the trauma. That new person didn’t experience this trauma.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder is common among kidnap and captivity victims, Masand said.
“What these individuals do is they avoid any stimuli that remind them of the trauma,” he explained. “Any distressing memories, any external reminders in terms of people or places or conversations or activities.”
For Knight, who has never publicly said she suffers from PTSD, those reminders could be Berry and DeJesus.
“There was an intimate relationship between them,” Masand said. “These women were actually restrained with ropes and chains, they were kept isolated. I think Michelle actually delivered a baby for Amanda Berry.”
“If you distance yourself from events, locations, people, places that are daily reminders of trauma – particularly serious captivity, as occurred in her case – physical distance can be healing. It can create emotional distance. You begin to heal and create a new life around new events, new memories, new contacts,” he said.
Knight, who was held captive the longest and suffered the most abuse from Castro, has previously indicated that she was distancing herself from Berry and DeJesus. When the two other women announced they were writing a book, Knight declined to join their project and instead wrote a book of her own.
She told Dr. Phil McGraw on the Dr. Phil Show that she was particularly close to DeJesus and the two were often chained together.
"There was times that he would hit her and I would stop him and take the hit. I would jump in front of her," Knight told Dr. Phil.
And she said DeJesus saved her life after one of her five miscarriages, caused by Castro starving her, jumping on her stomach and kicking her. "There was a time in the house I was going to die but Gina picked me up in her arms and said come back... I begged her to let me die, but she wouldn't," Knight said.
She and Berry are "okay," but not the "best of friends."
"[Berry] was one of those girls that really didn't get it," Knight said. "She would see it and she didn't believe it. She wanted to think that it wasn't happening. That's what type of girl she was in the house. He treated her totally differently so she looked at the situation in a different way."
Knight, who was kidnapped by Castro in October 2002, is also taking cooking classes and living in her own apartment.
Her new name, after her favorite flower, symbolizes her new life, she told People.
Knight opens up about her nightmare captivity in a new book, “Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings.” Castro beat her and kept her locked in chains in the basement, even once forcing her to prepare a “torture chamber” for DeJesus’ arrival, Knight has said.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of the women’s escape.