Most of the nation recognizes her name: Elizabeth Smart. Many can tell you that she was a young teenager who was kidnapped from her bedroom in the dead of night, only to be found nine months later and within twenty miles from her home. That was ten years ago.
Fast forward ten years to now, and Ms. Smart has become a remarkable young woman who travels and speaks out about protecting our young people, using the intensity of her own story to emphasize the need for all communities to be proactive and create more places of guaranteed safety to which children and teens may go to find assistance with their difficult situation.
Saturday, January 19, Smart was in Kansas City at the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum to benefit Kansas City’s Child Protection Center. “It is the only nationally accredited child advocacy center that provides forensic interview and supportive services to abused children” (Hawley 1).
Smart’s goal is to communicate to young survivors of abuse or abduction that they do not have to live the rest of their lives in fear. “’There are so many children who are still in that nightmare of a situation that I was once in that we need to do something about it,’ Smart said. ‘We need to come together, like everyone came together to bring me home, to help bring all these other children home to stop these terrible crimes from happening’” (Hawley 1).
When Smart was discovered with and rescued from her captors, her family wrapped her in a cocoon of protection from the media, but Smart was still required to answer question after question from investigators, prosecutors and others representing the legal system. Brian David Mitchell, the man who kidnapped Smart, was convicted of sexual assault and kidnapping, for which he is serving two life sentences. His wife, Wanda Barzee, is serving a 15-year sentence (Walsh 1). Unfortunately, the legal system took eight years for justice to be upheld for Smart.
Saturday in Kansas City, Smart expressed her belief that if a child protective center—like the one in Kansas City—had been available to her, it would have helped move the justice system more quickly and could have made the process easier to navigate. “’It would have been nice to be able only to have repeated my story one time, to only have to be interviewed one time and have that be it,’” she said (Hawley 1).
Smart is now preparing to tell her story yet another time, but she is determining the circumstances of how and why she is telling her story. She is working with Chris Stewart, a congressman from Utah, to write a book about her harrowing experiences. She waited until her captors had been sentenced to start work on the book. She hopes that it, along with the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, will help raise awareness about child abduction and abuse (Walsh 1).
Hawley, Amy. “Elizabeth Smart Visits Kansas City with Message.” www.KSHB.com January 20, 2013.
Walsh, Michael. “Elizabeth Smart To Finally Publish Her Own Version of Her Abduction.” www.nydailynews.com November 24, 2012.