Within Walking Distance: The Three Women Behind the Closed Door

The Three Women Behind the Closed Door in Cleveland, Ohio 

“I live within walking distance, 4 minutes to be exact. How do you think that makes me feel?”

I am sure that you have all heard about the 3 women that were found in Cleveland after missing for a decade or more. Michelle Knight had gone missing on August 22, 2002. Amanda Berry was missing since April 21, 2003. Georgina DeJesus had been last seen on April 2, 2004. There was also a six year old girl found that is Berry’s child. As I navigate internet articles and videos about the groundbreaking news, I can’t help but to cry for them.

Naturally, I put myself in the shoes of the girls who unwillingly went into the house perhaps young and innocent and came out forlorn women.  I cry because it is hard to imagine the physical condition in which they lived for the past 11 years- in a basement, like slaves. This is not the first time that I have had to cry for a missing girl in Cleveland and it probably won’t be the last. They were being held captive in a house less than a mile from my own residence. I could get there in four minutes! Even more petrifying, I had shaken the hand of the guy who owned the house where they were found.  Ariel Castro was a bass player and I heard him play at a celebration. 

The proximity of this man to me is enough to remind me that we never know who walks amongst us. I walk around my neighborhood and I feel safe. However, I remember my grandfather, who is now deceased, reprimanding me for always walking and going places by myself. I am the person who will take a midnight walk and consider it a challenge as opposed to a threat. My grandpa knew how I was, and he never stopped trying to get me to be more cautious. These types of stories make me yield to the idea of security. Although, I don’t want to be in a box, I will think again about my midnight adventures and consider my well-being first.

Yesterday, communities could only speculate on what happened in Castro’s basement. Were the girls being held as sex slaves? Were they cooking and cleaning? Did they know him previous to the kidnapping? Had they ever tried to escape? Were they beaten? What did they eat? How was the baby conceived? Did one of them give birth in the basement? Today, we have some of the answers.

A few years back, there was a girl locked in basement in a neighborhood where I did community work. It was the same neighborhood where the serial killer, Anthony Sowell trapped and murdered his victims. This girl was naïve and actually willing to meet older men, but she was not willing to be kidnapped. I remember hearing her story. It was not publicized. I wrote a poem about it and performed that poem at the Soul of Buckeye Art Park a block from where she was held.

It seems that women are susceptible to abduction. Most of us can’t fight off a bigger man who is aggressively handling us. We are women! We are not supposed to be big and bad. What I can do and what perhaps you can do to help yourself be prepared for life’s physical challenges is exercise and build up our physical strength so that we can at least fight back. I do not want to jump the gun and say every woman can be taken, but this story just reminds me of what is out there.

I am a fan of the TV show Dexter which is about a serial killer that goes undetected for most his life. As I watched Dexter for the past few years, I never thought that the things he did were bogus. Although it is just elaborate storytelling, I always thought that it could happen. It is happening.

There is a woman named Mandy Matula in Minnesota that just went missing. People are being taken every day in America and all over the world. We have to watch over each other and know our neighbors. I am not saying be nosy because we all have the right to our privacy, but can we stand to be more friendly?

There are three men being held in the custody of the police for the kidnapping of these three women. The attorney that will represent them in trial will definitely have some spiritual warfare. We all want to cry for them because we know that our mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, and friends are all susceptible to these types of situations. Let’s protect each other. Let’s love instead of hate. We have to be concerned for the well-being of each other.

It will take years of therapy for these women to be able to walk again. I believe in them and I know that they can do it. My heart goes out to the families, friends, and the community. This affects us all. None of us can be fully prepared for it, but we can at least have self-defense tactics in place. The police and news reporters canvassed the neighborhood to speak to people about this case. Everyone was pretty much shocked because Castro was a good neighbor. As I told you, I shook his hand, so we can never know.

I am Queen Duafe and I write for all women because we all descend from the same place, in the heart of the motherland. We have the same organs and bleed the same way when we are wounded. We set up barriers between each other as if we are superior because of our skin complexions. We should know better. A woman is a woman and a man is a man and we must not fight.  We should embrace and love one another. I just want to hug the three women and say, “sisters, you will get pass this. You can do it.”

I live in a mixed-racial community where I also work. At least six times a year, a police officer or family member comes into my place of employment with a poster of a missing child or woman. I have never seen any with men or boys missing, but I am sure there are some. No matter what area of the city, there is always a girl missing! At other jobs, I have experienced the same thing. A mother, a father coming in with a poster, asking the staff had they seen the child. I knew many of the children that were missing, some recovered, some not. I have had conversations with fathers, only to find out months later that they had been raping their daughters. These things are ugly, but I am prepared because mental sickness is rampant. I have heard men call their wives queens only to abuse them emotionally and physically behind closed doors. My attack is not on men, because I love men. My intent is not gender or culturally- based. It’s just a story.

Earlier this week, a man at work asked me to view a film called Heading South. It was a movie about sex tourism where Caucasian women from the United States went down to Haiti to have sex with young Hatian boys in the 70s. These women were sometimes married and would pay for the sex and give the boys gifts. The target was only on African/Haitian boys. These women got away with it because of the political unrest that was happening in Haiti during that time period. They should have been arrested.

When I first started watching the movie, I was disgusted because one of the women had a monologue about being 40 and fawning and eventually sleeping with a 15 year old Haitian boy. Honestly, I had to stop myself from throwing up! The man at work, a Caucasian man, kept asking me to watch it so that we could talk about it. When I finally talked to him about it, he said that the film was “erotic.” I do not want to paint the picture that that was all he said, but it was his final critique of the film. I found that hard to grasp because there was nothing erotic about it to me. I suppose that it is a matter of opinion, but erotic? Not a word I would use. Let me say that the man is older, in his 60s and I engage in conversation with him every once in a while.

He said to me that he understood the women’s point of view: they were old and felt undesired. They could go to Haiti and escape all of this and feel loved. Ok, there are many things wrong with that statement, but my point is, there is a mental sickness when it comes to humanity in this country. People indulge in the idea of eroticism and exoticness when it comes to darker people. The women in the film were in love with the Haitian boys. They talked about their skin complexions and how it turned them on. This is so sad to me. We are all just people. I get the feeling that the man who I was talking to about this film might have been trying to see where I stood on this issue from his own point of view. I feel like this because of my past encounters with him. He seemed to be searching for something and he thought perhaps I might be too.

Well, I am not searching for a cookie-cutter exotic experience. I do not want to be used as anyone’s slave to any degree- not at work, school, social places, etc. I am not erotic. I am not someone’s toy. I am NOT. The women on Seymour Avenue were not. The women on Imperial Avenue were not. The girl in the basement on East 117 Street was not! We are NOT toys to be fiddled with and we cannot be used to satisfy someone’s sick reality of acceptance. I don’t want to be accepted for my sex or skin. I am a human being, belonging to the ONE RACE.

Being attracted to someone because of their color is a bit disturbing. There is something not right about it. We are most often around people who share our same heritage, stories, and lifestyles. In America, that means race because of how the country was built. We are obsessed with skin color! Naturally, we can be more inclined to like certain people, but to target a certain group and then at the same time hate them for their skin is horrendous! The women in the film thought they were doing the boys a favor by supplying them with gifts and money. At the end of the movie, the boy ended up getting killed because of his prostitution and relationships with these women. The message was very deep. Did they really care? Selfishly they mourned the loss of their lover, but they went right back to America and continued on in their lives. The young boy prostitute was disposable. How sad.

Peace and love,

Queen Duafe for African Essence


3 thoughts on “Within Walking Distance: The Three Women Behind the Closed Door

  1. Peace & Blessings Queen Duafe,

    Your article raises important points about what it means to live as a woman in this society. I too am in the habit of taking midnight strolls in my Windermere-Lou Stokes neighborhood. I believe I am safe and feel I should not have to fear where i live…if so, it’s time to move. However, the fact that women in this society are preyed upon from every aspect and most notably tv, with its menacing dispersion of subliminal messages, and the simple fact that men are indeed bigger and physically stronger than women is reason enough for me (and you) to be cautious on these midnight strolls. The reason I don’t watch tv is that every movie and every series carries the recurring theme and plot of men as apex predators and murderers of women who cast as prey and bait are relentlessly hunted, stalked, multilated, strangled, RAPED, bounded, gagged, kidnapped, beat, wrapped in plastic bags, left to decompose in the woods, on the side of the highway..or in a garbage bin. I was recently challenged on this point by my partner and close friend. He reminded me that the majority of people writing these movies and shows are WHITE men and that their writing reflects how (and what) WHITE men actually feel and think about WHITE women–they hate them so much so they kill them regularly in popular media. I started thinking, does me knowing this to be true intellectually does it make me feel any less threatened or make me less of a target for male aggression? The answer is NO. I am woman. And the amount of violence that is suggested through tv and other popular media aimed at women is frightening. The message is clear:OPEN SEASON ON THE HUNTING AND KILLING OF WOMEN!

    On the other hand, the depiction of men as sexual predators and pedophiles obscure the fact that women are committing these same crimes. Your should be “saddened” about the habit of white women going to Haiti to have sex with under aged Black males. They are opportunist and pedophiles exploiting black boys who are poor. And you are right, the women are not in love with these boys but are fulfilling their perverse sense of the “erotic” and some critics have said that white people look upon darker skin as “exotic”. This is sick and criminal.


    • Thank you for your response. I am definitely pondering. Such a horrible sickness in America, this infatuation with skin color and the love/hate relationship with darker people. We have to stop settling for this. We are human, not toys to be used and abused. … not sex symbols. Sometimes I feel like brown people are trying to fit in to a mold that should not be their norm. It’s degrading, materialism that is not befitting of what we are.


  2. Pingback: Within Walking Distance: The Three Women Behind the Closed Door | Shila Iris

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