Ten years ago, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home and forced to live mostly outdoors with religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell and his companion Wanda Ileen Barzee. She survived nine months before finally escaping. Now that her kidnappers' trial is over and she's an adult, Elizabeth Smart is talking about what happened. She spoke with Meredith Viera about her memoir, My Story, and about how her ordeal made her feel: "I didn't feel human."
Yet here she is now, looking healthy, confident, and radiant. How do you go from being dehumanized to healing and becoming a strong human being again? I think this is why we're so fascinated by Elizabeth Smart's story.
Elizabeth tells Meredith that she was treated as a slave by her captors.
I mean, here I was, a 14-year-old girl, ripped from my family, from the life I knew, from my friends, from the people I loved, being raped every day, not knowing when I'd be able to eat next, not knowing when I'd be able to drink next, and being chained to a tree. I didn't feel human.
I don't think there's anything worse you can do to a child.
As a parent, that last line chills me. Can you imagine this happening to your own child? I think the Smarts must have been willing to do anything, anything at all to help their daughter heal from this horrible ordeal. Elizabeth deserves a lot of credit for doing the work she needed to do to feel human and worthy of love again. But her family must have been tremendously supportive as well, even before the kidnapping.
I also think starting a foundation to prevent crimes against children must be empowering for Elizabeth as well. I imagine with each act she takes to advocate for victims and prevent crimes, she is, in some way, rescuing herself again and again. Elizabeth could live in seclusion, where she might feel safer. But instead she chooses to give back and to live a remarkably public life. We don't know what demons she still fights privately. Maybe she talks about that in her book. But for the world, she represents the resilience of the human spirit.
Elizabeth Smart's interview airs on NBC on Friday night, 10 p.m. E.T.
How do you think you -- or your child -- would heal from an ordeal like Elizabeth's?
Image via NBC