A woman held captive for nine months as a teenager, captivated a standing-room-only crowd with her story tonight at Minot State University.
Elizabeth Smart was taken from her family’s Utah home in the spring of 2002 when she was 14.
Tonight, she described her capture and her torture that lasted some nine months.
For much of the time, she was held by a man and woman on a mountainside within five miles of her home.
She says she remembers worrying that the sexual abuse she was enduring would make her unwanted by anyone in her life – if she managed to survive.
But over time, Smart says she realized something crucial.
(Elizabeth Smart) “The one thing they could not take away from me was that my parents would always love me. They could never change my parents’ love for me. And when I realized that, I knew I had something worth surviving for.”
After her captors took her to California, Smart convinced them to return to Utah – a move she says saved her life.
Because as they were nearing the Salt Lake City area, the man and woman and Elizabeth were spotted by people in the town of Sandy, Utah.
After first denying to police who she was, one officer saw through her fear and brainwashing and pulled her aside…
(Elizabeth Smart) “That’s when he finally said, you know, there’s this girl and she’s been missing for a very long time. And her family, they’ve never stopped searching for her, they’ve never stopped loving her, they’ve never given up hope on her. They want her to come home more than anything in this world. Aren’t you ready to go home now? And it was finally only in that moment that I was finally able to admit who I was.”
Smart has since begun traveling the world, supporting causes of abducted children and rape victims.
She says her message is: No matter what struggle you’re facing right now, never give up because happiness is still possible to achieve.
She is now married and has three children.