Elizabeth Smart: 5 Facts About The Abduction Survivor

Since her rescue, Elizabeth Smart has rebuilt her life. She has become an advocate for victims of rape and sex trafficking, and uses her platform on social media to speak out publicly.

March 11, 2019

Photo by: Veneta Rizvic/KOMU [Wikimedia Commons]

Veneta Rizvic/KOMU [Wikimedia Commons]

By: Catherine Townsend
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On March 12, 2003, Elizabeth Smart, the 14-year-old who had been missing for nine months, was miraculously found alive in Sandy, Utah.

Smart had been kidnapped from her home the previous June at knifepoint by Brian David Mitchell, who crawled in through her bedroom window.

For the next nine months, Smart was held captive in a camp by Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, where she was repeatedly raped.

Since her rescue, Smart has rebuilt her life. She has become an advocate for victims of rape and sex trafficking, and uses her platform on social media to speak out publicly.

Here are five things to know about Elizabeth Smart:

1. She has spoken out critically against the Mormon church’s policies on purity.

Smart was raised in a devout Mormon family. But she has spoken out about certain of the church’s policies in the past — including its “crippling purity culture” — and said that it can have a derogatory effect on victims of sexual assault.

In 2013, she talked about the need to debunk cultural myths related to the loss of virginity. And in a 2016 interview with Broadly, she said, “I was kidnapped and I was raped, and one of the first thoughts I had was, ‘No one is ever going to want to marry me now: I’m worthless, I’m filthy, I’m dirty.”

She went on to say that she believes that it can be very damaging when “girls in particular tie their worth to their virginity, or, for lack of a better word, purity.”

2. During her months in captivity, Smart heard people shouting her name.

After forcing her to “marry” Mitchell in a sealing ceremony, Mitchell and Barzee tied Smart to two trees and told her that her family would be killed if she tried to escape.

“He looked at me and he said, ‘If you ever scream out like that again, I will kill you. If it'll help you not scream out, I can duct tape your mouth shut,’” she wrote in her memoir.

Days later, she said that she heard her uncle calling her name but would not answer due to the fact that she was “paralyzed with fear” due to her captors’ threats.

3. Today, Smart is married with a family.

Smart is married to Matthew Gilmour, a Scottish national she met while both were serving missions for the Mormon Church in Paris, France. The couple dated for a year and became engaged on January 2012. On February 18, 2012, they married in Hawaii. Smart and Gilmour have three children — two daughters, Olivia and Chloe; and a son, James.

4. During her ordeal, she saw a water glass that she believed was a “sign from God.”

Smart says she awoke one morning to find a cup of water — and was sure that the thirst-quenching liquid was a sign from God. “I could just feel the cold water running down inside of me and just how grateful I was for it. And just feeling like it was God telling me that I wasn't forgotten, that He still knew I was there. And that He wasn't abandoning me,” she told NBC News.

5. Smart has published two memoirs, and her story has been the subject of several TV movies.

Her first book was entitled My Story, written with Chris Stewart. The second book, which was released in 2018, was called Where There's Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up. In the books, Smart did not hold back in writing about what happened after she was forced to be “sealed” to Mitchell in a mock wedding ceremony.

"Over the next nine months, Brian David Mitchell would rape me every day, sometimes multiple times a day, he would torture and brutalize me in ways that are impossible to imagine, starve and manipulate me, like I was an animal," Smart wrote.

Still, Smart has stated that she prefers to focus on the positive side of life and feels blessed. Smart told People, "I wake up every morning and I feel like a very lucky and blessed woman."

In addition, Smart credits her mother’s advice with helping her heal. "Elizabeth, what this man has done to you is terrible,” she says her mother told her. “He has stolen nine months of your life that you will never get back. But the best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy.”

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