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Elizabeth Smart Launches Self-Defense Program After Reporting Sexual Assault On Flight

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Elizabeth Smart has launched a self-defense program after saying she was sexually assaulted on a commercial flight.

Smart spoke out about the incident Friday, saying feelings of shock, anger and anxiety all rushed back to her during the July 2019 flight.

She said she was in a situation she never thought she’d be in again. Now, she has shared the story publicly and has made some major changes to her foundation.

“I fell asleep and probably about two thirds into the flight I woke up with a start because someone’s hand was rubbing my inner thigh,” Smart said in an interview with KSL TV.

Those words, spoken so directly and calmly now, took months to say out loud.

“There was even a moment where I thought maybe I won’t (say anything),” she said.

She reported back in July while flying back to Salt Lake City that she was assaulted.

“I couldn’t believe it but I should believe it because I’ve already been kidnapped out of my bed in the middle of the night. That’s a lot more extreme than waking up to someone rubbing my leg on an airplane,” she said.

She said she thought she would know what to do and how to act in such a situation.

“The rest of the flight, I just sat there a little bit torn because on one hand I was angry that this could happen to me again and on the other hand I just was thinking well, what do I do now?” Smart said. “I was like it’s too late to scream. I didn’t scream when I woke up. I can’t just start screaming now.”

She later reported the incident to Delta and the FBI and is cooperating with an investigation. She said the decision to share such a private experience is in an attempt to help other women out there.

“I want them to know that they did nothing wrong. It’s not their fault for whatever has happened and if they froze, that is a completely natural instinct,” she said.

She said after all she’s been through and her work now as a child safety advocate, if she froze, then that response could happen to anyone.

“Unless you know (self-defense), practice it and built it into who you are as a person, you just go back to your natural instincts,” she said.

Now, the Elizabeth Smart Foundation will be offering self-defense classes taught by professionals over ten sessions.

Smart is a veteran of public speaking and talking about her past but this experience has spurred action she hopes will bring about real change.

“I thought, you know what? This is worth doing,” she said.

To learn more about the self-defense classes, visit the foundation’s website here.

The full interview with Elizabeth Smart can be seen below.