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For Cleveland women, ordeal of recovery begins now


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"They need to recognize that what happened as a result of that choice is not the rightful or due punishment. That’s really difficult sometimes," Donohue-Dioh says.

Family support will be crucial, the therapists say. But what does family mean when one member has spent a decade trapped with strangers?

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"The family has to be ready to include a stranger into its sphere," Bowers says. "Because if they try to reintegrate the 14-year-old girl who went missing, that’s not going to work. That 14-year-old girl doesn’t exist anymore. They have to accept this stranger as someone they don’t know."

Natascha Kampusch, who was kidnapped in Austria at age 10 and spent eight years in captivity, has said that her 2006 reunion with her family was both euphoric and awkward.

"I had lived for too long in a nightmare, the psychological prison was still there and stood between me and my family," Kampusch wrote in "3096 Days," her account of the ordeal.

Kampusch, now 25, said in a German television interview that she was struggling to form normal relationships, partly because many people seem to shy away from her.

"What a lot of these people say is, ‘What’s more important than what happened is how people react,’" says Greenberg, the psychologist.

The world has reacted to the Cleveland women with an outpouring of sympathy and support. This reaction will live on, amplified by the technologies that rose while the women were locked away.

Yet these women are more than the sum of their Wikipedia pages. Dugard, Smart and other survivors often speak of not being defined by their tragedies - another challenge for the Cleveland survivors.

"A classmate will hear their name, or a co-worker, and will put them in this box: This is who you are and what happened to you," Donohue-Dioh says. "Our job as society is to move beyond what they are and what they’ve experienced."


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"This isn’t who they are," Dugard told People. "It is only what happened to them."

Still, for the three Cleveland women, their journey forward will always include that horrifying lost decade.

"We can’t escape our past," Donohue-Dioh says, "so how are we able to manage how much it influences our present and our future?"

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AP Researcher Judith Ausuebel and AP Writer Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

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Jesse Washington on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jessewashington



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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