LOCAL NEWS

Elizabeth Smart celebrates sex abuse-prevention bill 21 years after she was found

Mar 12, 2024, 12:50 PM | Updated: Jun 28, 2024, 4:05 pm

Elizabeth Smart and her family....

Elizabeth Smart and her family.

SALT LAKE CITY — Tuesday, March 12 marks 21 years since Elizabeth Smart was found.

Smart was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home as a 14-year-old girl on June 5, 2002. She was missing for nine months until she was found by police in Sandy, Utah on March 12, 2003.

Smart reflected on her rescue in a post on her social media.

“I believe in miracles,” she said.

Sharing photos of her family, her marriage, a marathon she participated in, and other life milestones, she said: “When I was kidnapped I thought I’d never finish school, go to college, fall in love, get married, or have a family. I thought every dream I had for myself was stolen. For me today is a celebration of all of the happy moments of my life, and a reminder to never give up.”

Now, Smart advocates for programs to help other victims of sexual assault. The Elizabeth Smart Foundation‘s social media bio states, “Bringing hope and ending the victimization and exploitation of sexual assault through education, healing, and advocacy.”

Most recently, Smart worked with the Policy Project, Saprea Organization, and Prevent Child Abuse Utah to highlight the importance of child sexual abuse prevention through education.

The organizations advocated for the passage of SB205, a bill on child sexual abuse prevention.

“I was able to work with the Policy Project with a number of other incredible organizations that have worked to develop this education make sure that it truly is age appropriate and we invite you to learn to take the education for yourself so you know exactly what your children are taking,” Smart said in a video on social media.

The bill passed unanimously in its final vote in the Utah legislature, requiring sexual abuse prevention to be taught in age-appropriate ways in elementary schools across the state.

“This is so important because this education isn’t just for the moment, this is for life; because right now, one in seven children is being sexually abused in Utah. And guess what? The statistics don’t get any better as you get older,” Smart said. “If you’re a female and you go to college, you are two times more likely to be sexually assaulted or raped than you are to be robbed on campus. As you get older, guess what, the national average, the national statistic, is one in five women is sexually abused. In Utah, it’s one in three. We can do better. We have to do better and this is the first step to doing better.”

Survey results show what Utahns think and know about domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment

Smart said this type of prevention should be a continual conversation and implemented as part of other general safety education.

“If we don’t, our statistics are never going to change and we’re still going to continue to see such high numbers of victims,” she said.

The bill outlines the age-appropriate material would include instruction on: the responsibility of adults for safety of children, how to recognize uncomfortable inner feelings, how to say no and leave an uncomfortable situation, how to set clear boundaries and the importance of discussing uncomfortable situations and other trusted adults.

The material would not include materials that invite or allows students to share personal experiences about abuse during instruction, teaches instruction regarding consent, or includes sexually explicit language or depictions.

The bill would go into effect in in July, and would be implemented in the coming school year.

“I am so proud to have been a part of this to be able to support these other incredible organizations fighting to get this legislation passed,” she said. “It has been a journey and is an absolute triumph today.”

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Elizabeth Smart celebrates sex abuse-prevention bill 21 years after she was found