Jack Tame: Dignity in silence

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Life plus 1000 years. So far as prison sentences go, it's fairly emphatic.

But even before Ariel Castro shuffled, shackled, into court, his fate was set at life behind bars.

It was a mild afternoon in May when the world's attention focused on an otherwise unremarkable suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. Details came fast of three women rescued from the most deplorable conditions, from a loathsome, monstrous captor.

Raped, beaten, starved and tortured: the horror they'd endured couldn't be understated or undone.

But the community partied. Crowds gathered by the victims' family houses, eager for comments or smiles or a signal, maybe, that everything was actually all right. And we waited for the magazine deals to come through.

You couldn't have blamed the Ohio victims for cashing in on the torture they endured. Like Jaycee Dugard before them, they've no doubt been peppered with book deals and glitzy photo ops, offers from magazines.

With no federal compensation available to them, and a nation's appetite for sensational detail, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight would've no doubt considered the most profitable of publicity offers. But no.

"She does not want other people to write or talk about what happened," Amanda Berry's sister told the sentencing court, as she read from her sister's victim impact statement.

Berry wants to be the one to tell her daughter about what happened.

"Today is the last day we want to think or talk about this," said DeJesus' cousin.

The sentiments contrasted with a highly unusual sentencing. Despite having spared the women the agony of a trial, prosecutors and law enforcement spent two hours theatrically articulating the detail of Castro's crime.

As someone who usually argues in favour of judicial openness and public scrutiny, did we really need to see photographs? Whose interests were being served? With the facts not in dispute, couldn't the victims and their families be spared the pungent detail of Castro's abuse?

Yet through it all, the young women and their families were composed, calm and strong.

No one yelled at Ariel Castro, and many of those who spoke rightly noted the women's courage.

There is much to be said of the crimes Ariel Castro committed. There is more to be said for dignity.

- Herald on Sunday

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