Cleveland Women Face Trauma, Like Prisoners of War

PHOTO: Amanda Berry, right, hugs her sister Beth Serrano after being reunited in a Cleveland hospital, May 6, 2013.
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While little is known about the conditions in the home where three Cleveland women were allegedly enslaved for a decade, the trio likely suffered from the same kind of deprivation as prisoners of war, according to at least one psychological expert who trained in hostage situations with the FBI.

"Certainly diagnostically, we are looking at post-traumatic stress disorder in its severest form," said Herbert Nieberg, associate professor of law and justice at Mitchell College in New London, Conn. "Not only were they held in captivity, but nobody picked up on it and that makes people feel hopeless."

WATCH: Families of Allegedly Abducted Women: An Emotional Rollercoaster

Gina DeJesus, 23, Amanda Berry, 27, and Michele Knight, 32, vanished near their homes in Cleveland in separate incidents in 2002, 2003 and 2004, but were found Monday night only miles away from where they had disappeared in a home owned by 52-year-old former school bus driver Ariel Castro.

Berry broke through the door of the home with the help of neighbor Charles Ramsey, and called police, who rescued the two other women. They also found Berry's 6-year-old daughter, who was allegedly conceived in captivity.

LISTEN: Amanda Berry's 911 Call

WATCH: Cleveland Hero Charles Ramsey: 'Something Is Wrong Here' http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/cleveland-hero-charles-ramsey-says-something-is-wrong-here-19125172

Police said Castro and his two brothers, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50, were arrested in connection with the crime.

Their alleged kidnapping dredges up haunting stories of other women who had been held captive, some under conditions of torture and sexual assault.

Jaycee Dugard spent 18 years as a prisoner of Phillip and Nancy Garrido who kidnapped her in 1991 at the age of 11 on her way to school in Tahoe, Calif. She was held in a backyard compound where she was subjected to rape, manipulation and verbal abuse.

Dugard, now 32, gave birth to two daughters fathered by her abductor. She lived in virtual solitary confinement until her first daughter was born three years into captivity and wasn't allowed to spend time outdoors until after her second daughter was born, more than six years after her abduction.

Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 when she was only 14. She was found nine months later with a middle-aged couple, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee, who were later convicted of the crime.

WATCH: Elizabeth Smart Lauds Happy Endings

Smart, now 25, told GMA today that the women should not let the suspect Castro "ruin another second of their lives. He's stolen so much from them already.

"They don't need to relive everything that's happened because their rescue is proof that there are good people out there, more good people than not, who want the best for them, who want them to be happy, want good things to happen."

The Cleveland women are said to have told police they always knew they would be rescued.

"If I had to guess, they are grateful to have been liberated, but what I expect to see is difficulty trusting people," said Nieberg.

The women were allegedly kidnapped in their mid-teens, a time when they are more vulnerable, according to youth psychologist Chuck Williams, founding director of the Center for the Prevention of School-Aged Violence at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

"These young women were kidnapped as teens at a time when they were impressionable, their every move was controlled and dictated to them, and they were most likely told that they would be found and killed if they tried to leave," he said. "They are no longer thinking for themselves. In a sense, the captor has taken over their mind."

John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted" and whose son Adam was abducted and murdered in 1981, said the women should "get psychological help and therapy."

"Get ready. Get prepared," he told ABC News. Of Berry's daughter, he added, "Here is a little girl in this mix that looks like she may have been created by a sexual assault of the kidnapper."

But Alan Kazdin,, professor of child psychiatry at Yale University and director of the Yale Parenting Center, said media should be careful not to speculate about the effects of even the most severe form of trauma on the victims.

"Post-traumatic stress disorder as we know is a measure of psychiatric impairment in a continuum," he said. "We look for impairment of daily function. … Our job is to talk about right now … we don't have to work out the past, and it can even make it worse."

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