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Ariel Castro victims relieved by guilty plea

5:48 PM, Jul 26, 2013   |    comments
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The three Cleveland women kidnapped, raped and tortured by Ariel Castro over an 11-year span are relieved that his guilty plea spares them from testifying.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight "are satisfied by this resolution to the case, and are looking forward to having these legal proceedings draw to a final close in the near future," said a statement released by the law firm Jones Day, which is representing the women.

"They continue to desire their privacy. They do not wish to speak to the media or anyone else, and they thank people for continuing to respect their privacy as they grow stronger," the statement said.

Castro, 53, pleaded guilty Friday to 937 criminal counts of kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder. The terms of the plea mean he will likely receive life in prison with no possibility for parole, plus 1,000 years. He will be formally sentenced Thursday.

Mental health and legal experts say it is a good thing the women do not have to testify.

Patricia Saunders, a clinical psychologist in New York City who works with trauma victims, says that while there is no timeline for healing from such a terrifying experience, it's still very soon after their release.

The statement by the women shows they are vulnerable, Saunders says.

"I hear a note of optimism that over time they will heal," she says. "There's a sense of 'Thank God I do not have to go through this.' There is real relief."

Saunders says testifying can be cathartic for some victims who have started to take back control of their lives. Testifying empowers victims because they are part of the system that will mete out justice for a crime, she says. "But not everybody can do that," she says.

USA TODAY

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