Elizabeth Smart remembers feeling ‘complete despair’ after kidnapping

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Zunara Naeem.

Elizabeth Smart, whose kidnapping captivated the country a decade ago, recalled Thursday in the Marvin Center her slow crawl back to normalcy after she was held hostage for nine months at age 14.

Smart, who was abducted from her bedroom in June 2002 in one of the most publicized kidnappings in history, has become an activist for child abuse. She recalled the first month of her kidnapping, which she wrote about in her recent book, “My Story.”

“I remember so many overwhelming feelings and emotions, terror that is utterly indescribable,” she said Thursday. “I remember crying and feeling hopeless, just complete despair. Even if I could escape right now, who could take me back?”

Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped at age 14, spoke Thursday about her book, "My Story" and how survivors of abuse can move forward. Delaney Walsh | Photo Editor.
Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped at age 14, spoke Thursday about her book, “My Story” and how survivors of abuse can move forward. Delaney Walsh | Photo Editor.

She said she thought mostly of her family in the days that followed the kidnapping, when Brian David Mitchell broke into her home and forced Smart to live with him and his wife, Wanda Barzee, in a forest – beating, starving and raping her almost daily.

About 100 people attended her speech, including Second Lady of the United States Jill Biden.

Smart said she felt “filthy and ruined,” after she returned to her family when she was identified in Utah. She said her mother supported her while transitioning back into her life.

“She said she’d always love me. My family would always love me. So I made the most important decision: I would do whatever I could to survive. I would make it home,” Smart said.

In addition to founding a nonprofit, the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, she has worked as a correspondent for ABC News. Her father attended GW, and helped her connect with radKIDS, an organization that trains families in child safety.

Smart said without the kidnapping, she would not have had the opportunity to have such a significant effect on the world, adding that the kidnapping was only one small part of her life.

“I had a pretty great childhood. Only nine months were bad. I have had 25 years and three months of really great life, so I think it’s important to step back and take a look at the big picture.”

This post was updated on Oct. 11 at 10:57 a.m. to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the event took place in Lisner Auditorium. We regret this error.

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