By Francis Scarcella
SUNBURY, Pa. —
There were laughs, claps, smiles and tears when kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart described her ordeal and its aftermath to a packed Shikellamy High School auditorium Tuesday night. Sunbury Community Hospital hosted the sixth annual Healthy Woman Anniversary event.
Smart, 24, described her June 2002 abduction from her Salt Lake City bedroom and her rescue nine months later in Sandy, Utah.
“I’m here tonight to spread a message of hope,” she said in a soft voice. “It is hard to come out and talk about these things, and I want to let people know that I talk about it because I want to help other women. I choose what I want to talk about and what I don’t, and I want other women who have been a victim of sexual abuse to understand that they have the option of talking.”
Smart was kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. Smart said they controlled her by threatening to kill her and her family if she tried to escape. Nine months later, after receiving tips, police found Smart and returned her to her family.
“I felt the knife to my throat,” she told the rapt audience. “I knew it wasn’t a dream, and I knew I had to go because I didn’t want anyone else in my family to be harmed.”
“When we got in the car I asked my kidnapper if he was going to rape and kill me to just do it close to home so my family could find me,” she said. “He looked at me and smiled and told me not to worry because he wasn’t going to do that— yet.”
As audience members wiped their eyes, Smart began to tell them about how she was chained to a tree, but knew she needed to stay alive no matter the cost because she had to return to her family.
When Smart was rescued, the first thing she did was clean up.
“I took a long hot bath,” she said. “I felt dirty, disgraced and impure.”
But Smart said he mom told her there were only two opinions that mattered.
“God’s, she said, and your mother’s,” Smart said. “My mom told me that I can’t let this man have any more of my life and the best punishment for him is for me to be happy.”
Smart spoke about her Elizabeth Smart Foundation and her involvement with the organization “radKIDS,” which stand for “reducing aggression defensively.”
Smart also has helped promote The National AMBER Alert, The Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act and other safety legislation to help prevent abductions.
Smart said she feels it is necessary to continue to tour the country.
“I have had several people come up to me, including men, and tell me we are getting the message out,” she said. “I love to meet people and I love to speak.”
The best advice Smart may have received came from a saying by Mother Teresa. “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle,” she said.
“I just wish He didn’t trust me so much,” she added.