SALT LAKE CITY — Elizabeth Smart is using her story to help raise money for child abuse prevention and treatment services. Smart spoke Wednesday at the Family Support Center's Blue Ribbon Breakfast.
The morning of June 5, 2002, changed her life in a way she never could have prepared for. “Having a stranger break into my home and kidnap me at knifepoint and on the threat of death, I thought I was having a nightmare,” she said.
“If that was not enough, in and of itself, I was forced to run up into the mountains to a place that was impossible to find, and there I was raped.”
She talked about some of the things that happened during her nine months in captivity and how it made her feel. “I felt a notch below society, degraded and worthless.” She said she wondered if people, her family, would see her as someone worth loving. As time passed, she realized that no matter what happened to her, she was still be worth loving.
She said she made a choice to survive. “I decided I would live to see another day, and miraculously I was rescued, and I was reunited with my family.”
But Smart also pointed out that she is far from the only child to be abused. She admitted stopping all crimes against children is impossible and urged donations from the community to help the Family Support Center help those children who suffer today.
Smart praised the Family Support Center, which is devoted to protecting children, strengthening families and preventing child abuse. It offers counseling services, group therapy and parenting classes.
“There’s everything in this world working against the family unit, and it doesn’t get any easier when a child is hurt or abused, or a parent develops an unhealthy addiction, possibly leading to neglect and pain,” she explained.
She said the center is there to help and become an advocate for the family, and really, “what else is more important than family?”
Smart also wants to empower children so that when they are faced with unthinkable situations they will know what to do. The Elizabeth Smart Foundation is working on implementing the radKIDS program at schools across the country. The program teaches children to recognize, avoid and escape dangerous situations.