The escape this week in Cleveland of three female captives gave hope to Canadian families and friends who are still searching for their missing sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts and nieces.
“Hope keeps everything in check,” said Glendene Grant, the mother of a woman from British Columbia who went missing seven years ago in Las Vegas at age 21.
Ms. Grant hired private investigators after her daughter, Jessica Foster, went missing. They found out Ms. Foster had been in the hospital with a broken jaw, and had been arrested for solicitation before her disappearance.
The families of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, who escaped from a nightmarish captivity that police say included being beaten, chained and raped, said they never gave up hope they would find the women alive.
Many Canadians in similar situations also dream of seeing their loved ones alive one day, even if what they have been through is “horrific,” says Lusia Dion, co-creator of the Canadian Centre for Information on Missing Adults website, a resource that police recommend to the families of missing women.
The Cleveland escape “certainly gives a lot of families a lot of hope that their missing loved one may be located,” Ms. Dion says.
CNN reported this week that the accused tormentor showed the captives televised coverage of vigils held by the Berry and DeJesus families, who have said they never gave up hope the girls would return home alive.
The family of Michelle Knight did not hold vigils and her grandmother said they were certain she was dead.
Ms. Berry and Ms. DeJesus returned home this week and their families have appealed for privacy to help with the healing process. Ms. Knight was released from hospital on Friday and also asked for privacy.
After her daughter disappeared, Ms. Grant started an Internet radio show called Missing and Exploited, and it was there that she was introduced to Nancy DeJesus, Gina’s mother.
“Nancy took the opportunity to call in because that’s what we do; we call in and try to get our kids’ names and stories out there as much as possible,” Ms. Grant said.
“My coping skill is through helping others and it really does help me,” she said. “It’s helped me get through over seven years of a nightmare.”
Ms. Dion says the main message for families is not to give up hope.
“The position that we take is that we assume that the missing person is alive, unless there’s reason to suggest otherwise.”
“There are a huge number of missing adults in this country,” she said.
The Canadian Police Information Centre says there were 4,989 cases of women going missing for unknown reasons in 2011 across Canada. That’s the last year for which statistics are available.
Their family and friends often live with a “painful hope … that they will be found alive,” Wally Oppal, head of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in British Columbia, said in a report published last year.
The report last fall said joint investigative task forces in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were investigating 280 cases of murdered or missing women where foul play was suspected in those four provinces alone.
The RCMP created a database of missing persons this January.
Sergeant Lana Prosper of the RCMP runs the website called Canada’s Missing, or the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains, and says it has led to an increase in tips in the cases.
There are 461 missing adults listed, many of whom have been missing for 10 years or more.
Sgt. Prosper said there is still hope for finding these people.
“It’s not as rare as I think people believe it is,” she said.
“Yes, it is rare in the context of the majority of people that are missing after a decade. There’s not always the good news story.”
Sgt. Prosper says the lesson she hopes people take away from this week’s developments in Ohio is that the worst should not always be assumed about missing people.
She assured families and friends that investigations for missing Canadians don’t stop.
“We’re not giving up,” she said. “We’ll continue to look for them and bring them home.”
Ms. Grant said she can’t stop hoping.
“If Jessie were to walk through my door today and realize that I had been talking about finding her remains and letting her rest in peace I couldn’t imagine looking at her and saying I had lost hope and I had given up,” she said.
“I tell a lot of people that the things I do, I actually do for Jessie,” she said. “If Jessie’s not able to live a good life, or laugh, or have any sense of happiness, I try to do a little bit of that for her, and keep her life going.”
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