Give Cleveland kidnap victims time to heal: Dugard

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Kidnap ordeal survivor Jaycee Dugard called for the three women who escaped from a decade-long imprisonment in a Cleveland house to be given time to adjust to freedom on Tuesday.

Ms Dugard became the subject of a worldwide media frenzy in 2009 when she was found alive, 18 years after she had been abducted as an 11-year-old girl in 1991 by a convicted sex offender.

As television crews and reporters descended on a working class street in Cleveland on Tuesday, Ms Dugard issued a statement urging for the three women at the centre of the latest extraordinary story to be given space to adjust to their transition.

"These individuals need the opportunity to heal and connect back into the world. This isn't who they are. It is only what happened to them," Dugard said in a statement to People magazine, while acknowledging the strength of the victims.

"The human spirit is incredibly resilient. More then ever this reaffirms we should never give up hope." The three women found on Monday have been identified as Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight and had been missing for a decade.

Ms Berry is reported to have given birth to a child during her long captivity - drawing a parallel with Dugard, who had two daughters after being held by Phillip and Nancy Garrido, who were later jailed for life.

Another high-profile kidnap survivor, Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her home in 2002 at the age of 14 before being found alive nine months later, said she hoped the victims would be able to rebuild their lives.

"They should never feel like their worth has been lessened from anything that happened and I hope that they realise there's so much ahead of them they don't need to hold on to the past," Ms Smart told ABC television's Good Morning America.

Ms Smart urged Berry, DeJesus and Knight to try and follow the advice she had received from her mother following her own abduction - to not let their alleged ordeal at the hands of 52-year-old Ariel Castro ruin the rest of their lives.

Asked what advice she would give the three women, Smart said: "It'd be to not allow this man to ruin another second of their lives.

"He's stolen so much from them already. They deserve to be happy and I'd tell them that they should never feel like they're not worthy.

"They don't need to relive everything that's happened."

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