Seymour Avenue survivors Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus trying to normalize their lives

CLEVELAND - It was the smile the world has been waiting to see: A glowing Gina DeJesus beamed with delight Sunday as she played with her dogs in the yard of her Cleveland home.

The day before, Amanda Berry took the stage at a downtown Cleveland concert. 

It was the most public either woman had been since they were rescued in May from Ariel Castro's Seymour Avenue home, where they were held hostage for 10 years.

"It's very important," said Laura Cowan, whose ex-husband kept her locked in their garage for six months. "It's like therapy. They're getting acclimated back into society where they belong and they're showing people ‘Hey, I survived this.'"

It all happened at the end of a week that included their kidnapper Ariel Castro accepting a plea that will send him to prison for life without parole.

"That piece alone is probably a very large variable in encouraging them to now venture out into the world they've missed for the last 10 years," said Dr. Ellen Casper, clinical psychologist.

Casper said it's important for the women to gradually be exposed to events that are positive and fun.

"It is absolutely possible to get on the other side of this and live a healthy life," she said. "However, the scarring will certainly be permanent even if it fades over time."

Cowan, whose abuse took place 10 years ago, is always willing to share her story with others. She said it was God, a lot of therapy, family support and doing volunteer work with domestic violence survivors that helped her through the healing process.

"Still, there are times when you do have flashbacks or have those moments no matter what," she said. "But you still move on. You pick up and you just keep going. You fall down, but you get up."

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