Elizabeth Smart: 11 years after rescue
Sat, 15 Mar 2014 02:48:16 GMT —
Elizabeth Smart was just 14 years old on June 5, 2002, when she was abducted from her Salt Lake City, Utah, home.
After nine months of rape and torture at the hands of her captors, Smart was rescued just miles from her home.
"I have had the ultimate miracle in my life, I survived," Smart said Friday on the University of Missouri campus.
"And I just feel like I have been given this opportunity to make a difference and to speak out to make sure that what happens to me doesn't happen to anybody else."
Smart was in Columbia Friday to sign copies of her memoir, "My Story," and speak at Jesse Auditorium.
Smart's abduction and unlikely rescue captured attention nationwide.
"My kids were really young at the time, and so I think every mom held their kids a little closer that night and were terrified when they saw the story. It just makes you feel very vulnerable, makes you feel like it's very hard for you to protect your kids," Katie Hoerner, who was visitng Columbia Friday for her children's swim meet, said.
"And then seeing the happy ending for her gives everybody hope and makes you feel like you can overcome anything really."
Smart is currently lobbying for a bill in Utah that calls for schools to teach kids how to prevent abduction and abuse both mentally and physically. This might include self-defense courses and teaching kids that it's not their fault and it is okay to tell someone. The message goes beyond "stranger danger," because Smart says the abductor or abuser in many cases knows the victim.
"Talk to your children about anybody, and just say 'this is okay, and this is not okay. And if you ever feel uncomfortable, you come and tell me because I love you and I will always believe you and I will do whatever it takes to protect you'," Smart said.
Smart's abductor, Brian Mitchell, is currently serving a life sentence.
His wife, Wanda Barzee, is serving two concurrent 15-year sentences.