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Why Michelle Knight 'forgives' her Cleveland kidnapper

Michelle Knight was kidnapped by Ariel Castro in 2002 when she was 21. She and two other women escaped from captivity in 2013. 

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Michelle Knight smiles during an interview in Cleveland in June 2014. During an interview on Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, Knight, one of the three women held captive in a Cleveland home for about a decade, said she has been able to forgive her kidnapper, Ariel Castro, and find peace in her life.

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

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One of the three women held captive in a Cleveland home for about a decade told a crowd she has been able to forgive her kidnapper and find peace in her life.

Michelle Knight, who was kidnapped in August 2002 when she was 21, said she realizes now that Ariel Castro had a disease, and therapy has taught her that what he did hadn't been his fault, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.

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Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus broke out of the house in May 2013 after suffering years of torture. Knight said it wasn't until about a year and a half after her rescue from Castro's home that she reached a breakthrough.

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"I was able to say his name, Ariel Castro," the 33-year-old Knight said. "I was able to forgive him."

Knight made the comments during an interview conducted by a radio host on Sunday at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin High School in Chardon, Ohio.

Castro pleaded guilty to a long list of charges and committed suicide in prison in September 2013.

"I felt very appalled by it, but I understood," Knight said of Castro's prison suicide. "I don't condone what he did."

She received applause from the crowd when she said she hopes for the best for Castro's family.

"A lot of people who have contacted me through Facebook see me as an inspiration," said Knight, who has written a book about her ordeal called "Finding Me." ''It means the world to me and it is an honor to help everybody I can."

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Knight said her time in captivity has made her stronger and has allowed her to know herself better.

"The situation (Castro) put me in didn't define me," she said. "I choose to live a meaningful life."

Michelle Knight has said that she has forgiven Castro on several occasions. The first time was during his sentencing hearing in August 2013. Knight read a victim impact statement in court. 

“I looked inside my heart and I would see my son, and I cried every night. I was so alone,” she said. “Days never got shorter, days turned into nights, nights turned into days, years turned into eternity.”

She addressed Castro directly, telling him he was a hypocrite for attending church services every Sunday and then “going home to torture” the women afterward.

“I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all of this that happened, and you will face hell in eternity. You will die a little every day as you think about 11 years and atrocities you inflicted on us,” she said. “I can forgive you, but I can’t ever forget.”

Then, during an appearance in May on NBC's "Today" show, Knight said Ariel Castro deserves forgiveness because she'd want to be forgiven if she did wrong, and "that's the way of life."

She added, "he is a human being and every human being needs to be loved," even if he did wrong.

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Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com