Editor’s Note: This article mentions topics that might be upsetting to some readers including rape and kidnapping.
Bravery, strength, and endurance are three qualities that Elizabeth Smart not only possesses, but radiates. It is hard to believe looking at her now that, 17 years ago in the summer of 2002, she was a shy 14-year-old girl who had been plucked from her family home in the middle of the night at knife point. Her abduction and rescue nine months later were followed by millions and still fascinates and horrifies people to this day.
She grew up in the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City. Her parents, Ed and Lois Smart, raised her and her 6 siblings in a happy, loving home. They were taught about God from an early age by their parents. As devout Mormons, they emphasized the importance of family, which is something that Elizabeth held onto to survive nine months in what she called “a living [H]ell.” During her time in captivity, she was raped multiple times a day, starved, and verbally and physically abused, but she continued to do whatever it took to survive because she knew her family loved her.
The now 31-year-old told the South Bend Tribune, “My mom wasn’t going to stop loving me because I’d been kidnapped or because I’d been raped,” she said. “I found something to hold onto. I was going to do whatever it took to survive.”
Her Hell turned into paradise the day she was rescued. On March 12, 2003, she was found alive, and her abductors, Brian David Mitchell, and Wanda Barzee, were arrested. Barzee pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. In a shocking development, she was released from prison on September 19, 2018. Mitchell’s insanity plea failed miserably, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, never to have the chance to hurt another child ever again.
In the early years after her rescue, Smart rarely spoke publicly. She lived out the rest of her days in high school, regaining the childhood she lost. Smart later attended college at Brigham Young University where she majored in Music. She was always a passionate Harp player. Smart was later a missionary in Paris, France for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for 18 months.
Eight years after her abduction, she spoke courageously at the trial of Brian David Mitchell, revealing the nine months of torture she experienced at his hands. At his sentencing, Elizabeth used the heavy media presence to shine a light on other missing children so that they may also be found. She continuously highlights the fact that there is always hope even in the darkest times.
Elizabeth Smart became a public speaker, the author of two New York Times Best Sellers, My Story and Where There’s Hope, a movie producer for the movie based on her life called I am Elizabeth Smart, a mother to three children, and a wife to a former missionary in the LDS church, Matthew Gilmour.
Elizabeth is most known for her advocacy work for children and victims of abuse. She has continuously promoted the need for children’s safety programs in schools. She is the spokesperson for RADKids: Resisting Aggression Defensively, which is a safety training program for children that tackles everything from fire safety to sexual assault and bullying.
She has fought for countless pieces of legislation, both nationally and in specific states, which would require schools to provide more safety training to children, aside from the usual ‘stop, drop, and roll’ training. Most recently, in July of 2017, she assisted Senator Orrin Hatch in his efforts to speed up DNA testing at crime labs. The proposal passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in May of 2017 and was signed into law by President Donald Trump in August of 2017.
Smart said to the Associated Press, “I think more than everything, the rapid DNA response made me think of the would-be victims,” said Smart. “People who didn’t commit a crime shouldn’t be in prison and those who did should be.”
Perhaps the most inspiring thing about Elizabeth Smart is her candidness in telling her story of survival. She wants other survivors to know that they have value given to them by God, and no one, no matter how they hurt you, can take that value away.
If there is one thing I know, it’s that speaking out about sexual assault is never an easy thing to do, especially if it is your own experience. It took me years to publicly speak on my sexual assault. One year ago, my first Lone Conservative article was released in which I described the suffering I went through when my high school told me I couldn’t report my sexual assault to police. It’s because of people like Elizabeth that continuously stand up for survivors of abuse that I had the courage to ever tell my story.
Elizabeth Smart is the embodiment of change in a world that would turn a blind eye to the issues of rape, kidnapping, and sex trafficking as an impossible thing to stop and a taboo thing to speak about. Elizabeth’s story demands our attention, and her cause demands our participation so that every child knows how much they are truly worth.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.