Elizabeth Smart announced Tuesday that her Elizabeth Smart Foundation is merging with the Malouf Foundation, a Utah-based nonprofit dedicated to confronting child sexual exploitation and specifically, sex trafficking and online abuse.
"It is with great pride and excitement that I'm able to stand before you today and say that we are now officially part of the Malouf team, it is so exciting for us," Smart said at a press conference Wednesday at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City.
The organizations' combined resources will be used to create awareness about how to recognize and combat sexual violence and exploitation.
The Elizabeth Smart Foundation was founded in 2011 by Smart, who was abducted from her Salt Lake home in 2002, after which she endured nine months of sexual assault and abuse at the hands of her captors. The foundation carries the mission to bring hope and end the victimization of sexual assault and abuse through prevention, healing and advocacy.
Partnering with the Malouf Foundation to join forces became "obvious," Smart said. "Together, we could create so much more change and create a bigger difference than we ever could on our own."
Smart said that she became aware of the Malouf Foundation a number of years ago after she was asked how to spot survivors of human trafficking or those who are in dangerous situations.
"I actually searched online and I came across OnWatch training, which is produced and made by Malouf and that was actually my first introduction to them," Smart said. "As time progressed, I got to know them better and better and better — as we learned more about what Malouf stood for, what their initiatives are, where their vision (is) for not only scope but scalability as well — that stood out so much."
OnWatch is a free online training program that teaches users how to recognize and report sex trafficking in their communities. The Malouf Foundation was founded by Sam and Kacie Malouf in 2016 as a charity arm of Malouf Companies.
Both organizations see the partnership as an opportunity to grow their individual programs, expand their reach and ultimately affect more people.
Through the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, Smart and her team have developed advocacy initiatives and programs to aid in prevention and healing. One of those programs is Smart Defense, a self-defense class that teaches women and girls techniques from krav maga, jiujitsu and muay thai, as well as concepts such as setting boundaries and identifying red flags.
Along with OnWatch, the Malouf Foundation offers the Juniper Scholarship for sex trafficking survivors and plans to open Utah's first restorative care center for female victims ages 11 to 18.
"Our whole company is thrilled to have Elizabeth and her team as our co-workers, not only for the value and perspectives they will bring to our programs but also for how we can contribute to theirs," Sam Malouf, CEO of Malouf Companies, said in a statement Wednesday.
"With this merger, I feel like it gives me more freedom to make an impact," Smart said.