"He doesn't define who I am. I define who I am by everything I do in life."
Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight are true survivors.
During an interview with "20/20" airing Friday, the women open up about their lives after being kidnapped, raped, tortured and held captive by Ariel Castro in Cleveland, Ohio for nearly a decade each between 2002 and 2013.
"Everybody in life that goes through a tragedy, that's been in the dark for so long, needs to see the sunrise," Knight, 38, explained. "Just show the people that have harmed us that they don't control us anymore."
Castro pleaded guilty to 937 criminal counts of rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder. In August 2013, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus a thousand years. He killed himself in jail a month later.
"I chose to forgive [Castro], because I didn't want the emotional chain of that situation," Knight told "20/20". "I didn't want it to hold me back or control my life anymore, so I had to break free. I had to show him that he no longer has control over me. That he doesn't define who I am. I define who I am by everything I do in life."
And her life now consists of her "chosen family," including a new father and husband.
"I got my adopted dad, which his name is Jim [Taylor]. He's such a sweetheart. He's the one that showed me that men are not all the same," Knight explained. She said her husband, Miguel Rodriguez, is "the love of my life -- my other half. He showed me that life doesn't have to be horrible and you don't have to be alone."
"When I first came out of the house, I didn't even know what love was. What a tender touch was. All I knew was abuse," she recalled. She has since legally changed her name to Lily Rose Lee and started a nonprofit called Lily's Ray of Hope to help victims of child abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking.
Both Berry, 33, and DeJesus, 29, graduated from high school two years after their escape from Castro and wrote "Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland," with Washington Post journalists Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan in April 2015.
Berry works with a local news station, covering missing persons. "That's the most important thing that I'm doing right now. I just want to make the world a better place," she noted. She is also raising the daughter she had with Castro while in captivity. Jocelyn is now 13.
"Jocelyn is more special than I could even use words to describe. I always describe her as wise beyond her years," said Jocelyn's former teacher Erin Hennessey.
In 2018, DeJesus opened The Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults to "work with the families to help them navigate the media, to help to go to the police station," according to DeJesus.
The building is on the same street where Castro's house was located. The home was demolished months after his capture.
"I just want to change the neighborhood. I want to turn it to, like, positive and I want to give back," DeJesus said.