Elizabeth Smart reflects on life 20 years after kidnapping

Jun 3, 2022, 5:48 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:10 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — When Elizabeth Smart looks back over the past 20 years, she doesn’t dwell on her kidnapping.

“Life is hard, and it has its up and its downs, but I also think life can be very healing, and I feel like it has been for me,” she said.

And while some may still see her as the little 14-year-old girl plastered on missing posters, she doesn’t see herself that way.

“If someone sees me as the little girl that was kidnapped, it’s OK, that’s fine, because I know that yeah that is me, but that’s not all of me,” Smart said. “That was a moment in time, I have a whole lifetime of other experiences now.”

Smart says she never expected to live life in the spotlight, even after her kidnapping on June 5, 2002. But she says there was a defining moment for her as details of her abuse were shared in court.

“For myself, and other survivors who never have their day in court, who never have the opportunity to share their stories, I want to give it some context. And that’s what got me to write my book, and it was like from there on out it was just like, let’s go.”

Smart studied abroad, served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, graduated college and become a wife and mother. She created the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, educating and advocating for sexual abuse victims and hoping to end victimization. This past year, her foundation joined forces with the Malouf Foundation to take the work even further.

“I feel like there is so much more possible with us together than just me on my own, if it was just me on my own, it would still be me on my own. But together I feel like we really can create change,” said Smart. “I get to sit here and say this is important, this is what victims are saying, this is what survivors are needing, these are some ideas I’ve had in my mind if we help push out we can really help to reduce the numbers, the statistics we’ve seen.”

For 20 years Smart has created the life she’s wanted. When asked what she’s most proud of, Smart says it’s stepping into the spotlight after Brian David Mitchell, the man convicted of kidnapping Smart at knifepoint from her bedroom and subjecting her to sexual abuse for nine months, was convicted and sentenced to life in federal prison.

“I think I’m most proud of myself that I decided I would put myself out there and that I wouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed of what happened to me and sharing my story and not just sharing my story but doing something about it. So hopefully other survivors can feel like they’re not alone and they can share their stories and hopefully, we can one day see the statistics start to go down.”

As she reflects on the past 20 years, Smart says the actual anniversary doesn’t hold much weight for her. She says it often passes with just a fleeting thought.

“This Sunday, it will kind of be the same, to be honest. Because the day that I celebrate is the day that I came home, it was a happy day, it was a wonderful day.”

Smart says if there is one thing she wants those who have supported her over the past 20 years to know, it’s that she’s happy, and she’s never forgotten their support.

“I’m happy, I do this because I choose to not because it haunts me or traumatizes me, I do this because I want to and I want to make a difference. And I am living my best life right now. The way I know how to best And I am so grateful for everyone’s kindness and love and support and prayers, and I will never stop being grateful for that and I look forward to the future and the change I believe will come.”

Smart encourages everyone to visit https://www.iamonwatch.org/ and take the training designed to help us spot, report, and prevent sex trafficking so that another child doesn’t have to go through what she did 2o years ago.

“Don’t stop, don’t stop caring about missing children, don’t stop caring about missing people, don’t stop caring about human trafficking and sexual violence, if you followed me and care about me please educate yourselves and have conversations with your children and the children in your lives because it doesn’t always happen the way you think it will happen, in fact, I would say it almost never happens the way you imagine it to happen.”

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Elizabeth Smart reflects on life 20 years after kidnapping