Elizabeth Smart shares story of resiliency with South Bend
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted and held captive in Utah for nine months, shared her story of resiliency with South Bend Wednesday night. She sat down exclusively with ABC 57 before her presentation.
Smart was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2002 at the age of 14.
She was rescued nine months later and has since been sharing her story with the world in the hopes of preventing future crimes against children.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that every year 58,000 children are taken by nonrelatives with primarily sexual motives.
They say 115 reported abductions represent cases where strangers kill or keep children.
75% of those children who are killed typically end up being murdered within the first three hours.
But, Smart says the community can help by keeping a watchful eye.
“Everybody has a story, and they’re not all thank goodness kidnappings and rape, but every single one of us has a story," says Smart.
Thinking about others' stories is what propels Elizabeth Smart to take the stage time and time again, sharing her story of abduction and abuse.
“During the nine months that I was held captive, I was raped daily, sometimes multiple times a day. I was starved. I was dehydrated...I lived in a nice home. I had a nice family, but it still happened to me," she said.
Smart hopes to inspire other faces in the crowd who may have gone through their own period of darkness to not be afraid to join her in bringing those issues to light.
“It’s terrifying to think that people might look at you different, and especially because most cases of abuse, most kidnappings, most cases of sexual violence, they come from someone that you know," she said.
She says now, these folks know someone who's been there and wants to help.
“We have so little power over what happens to us, things that occur in our lives, but ultimately, where we do have control is what we decide to do next, how we react, how we move forward, and I think in the long run, that is what is going to define you as a person," said Smart.
Smart says that's what compelled her to speak for the Family and Children's Center Wednesday, and that message struck a chord with the audience.
“I think I just love her survival and her hope that she had and her stories and how her mind just went through that entire nine months and in the end, she finally figured out how to escape and that she chose to live and her family really wanted her," said Ann Hudson, who lives in South Bend.
“Even if she had a bad day, that she would still at the end of it, choose happiness as her final goal, which I think is really important," said IUSB student Daena Sisk.
You can learn more about Elizabeth Smart's foundation, click here.