Thursday, May 26, 2011

Elizabeth Smart: Hope Faith and Charity

by Cathy Scott

I’m proud of Elizabeth Smart. This week, in U.S. federal court, she faced her kidnapper for the first time since being rescued and told him she's living a good life despite the horrors surrounding what he did to her.

At the sentencing hearing for street preacher Brian David Mitchell on Wednesday, May 25 (which, coincidentally is National Missing Children’s Day), Elizabeth told her captor she believes he’s well aware that what he did to her was wrong. He snatched her at knifepoint in the middle of the night from her bed, dragging her from her family’s home in Salt Lake City, Utah, to a nearby mountain. He raped her continuously over the ensuing months as he held her captive. Those nine months, Elizabeth told Mitchell, are forever lost. But he has not stripped her of her future.

"I want you to know that I have a wonderful life," Elizabeth, now 23, told Mitchell. It took just a minute for Elizabeth to give her short speech as she stood tall and proud, unafraid of her kidnapper.

It brings to a close the saga that began in 2002, nine years ago when, at age 14, Mitchell held Elizabeth against her will in a rustic camp with Mitchell’s wife, , who was convicted of the crime in 2009.

She has moved on. Elizabeth, a harpist, has two semesters to go at Brigham Young University before graduating with a degree in music. Also, she recently returned from a two-year mission in France with the Church of Latter Day Saints. And she works as an advocate for children and victims of crime, especially kidnapping. And she has started the Elizabeth Smart Foundation with her first goal to get a program called RADkids into public schools. RAD, which stands for "Resist Aggression Defensively," teaches children specific techniques to get away from would-be attackers. Through the program, she told CBS affiliate KUTV, "I hope it gives others hope that they can speak out and not be scared to face their captor."

To a waiting crowd outside the courthouse, Elizabeth said, "Today is the end of a very long chapter and the beginning of a very beautiful chapter for me."

The day also marked the first time Elizabeth had directly addressed Mitchell, 57. She spoke at his trial in 2010, but he'd been removed from courtroom because of his disruptive behavior. This day, however, Brian David Mitchell was in court, and he heard Elizabeth’s words loud and clear before he was ushered, in shackles, back to a federal penitentiary—where he belongs—to serve out a life sentence.


Dr. Gina Simmons said...

Elizabeth Smart deserves our respect and admiration for turning a potential tragedy into a force for change. She is fortunate she had a loving family and community to return to after her abduction. Thanks for sharing her story Cathy! Enjoyed reading it.

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