Cleveland Kidnapping Survivor Michelle Knight Faces Everyday Triggers That Send Her Back To Horror

Michelle Knight escaped her captivity in the home of Ariel Castro nearly five years ago

It has been nearly five years since Michelle Knight escaped the home in Cleveland where she was held captive, raped and tortured for 11 years.

Now a married author of two books, Knight, 37, has overcome the horror to find a sense of happiness and self-worth.

But she is still haunted by her memories of being held prisoner by Ariel Castro, who later was convicted of his crimes before committing suicide in prison. In everyday life, Knight — who has since changed her name to Lillie Rose Lee — encounters triggers that bring her back to her trauma.

“I was terrified of motorcycle helmets because Castro had used one to limit my sign and my movement,” she she writes in her new memoir, Life After Darkness: Finding Healing and Happiness After the Cleveland Kidnappings, which is excerpted exclusively in this week’s issue of PEOPLE.

“And I was horribly afraid of cloth napkins. Whenever I would go to a nice restaurant, I would have to ask for a paper napkin instead of a cloth one. Cloth was what Castro would shove into my mouth so I couldn’t scream whenever he had people over to the house.”

Knight was 20 when she was kidnapped in August 2002 by Castro. Along with two other captives, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, Knight escaped the home on May 6, 2013.

• Watch the full episode ofPeople Crime: Michelle Knight – Finding Love After Captivity streaming now on, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

Michelle KnightDeborah Feingold Photography
Deborah Feingold

• For more on how Michelle Knight overcame her trauma, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Knight says she can’t watch certain TV shows or horror movies – especially ones with chains and guns: “I don’t want to put myself in a position to where I am putting myself backwards,” she says.


In her book, Knight describes her triggers as “terrible phobias that Castro had drilled into me.”

The smells of certain foods also stir up troubling emotions.

“The smell of beans, rice and meat mixed with certain spices brought back bad memories and could get me coughing to the point that I would actually throw up,” she writes.

“It was all just another reminder that trying to be a normal person living a normal life was out of reach — for the moment anyway.”

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