Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No Hed (Part of Package) Elizabeth Smart, Kidnapped in 2002, 'Grateful' for What She Learned

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No Hed (Part of Package) Elizabeth Smart, Kidnapped in 2002, 'Grateful' for What She Learned

Article excerpt

Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart told an audience in Pittsburgh on Friday that she's grateful for the 9-month ordeal she went through as a 14-year-old because it left her with empathy, understanding and a lifetime mission to assist other victims of kidnapping and sexual assault.

"I'm not sorry it happened," said Ms. Smart, 31, at the annual fundraising campaign kickoff for United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania's Women's Leadership Council.

The events of her 2002 abduction from her parents' home near Salt Lake City and eventual rescue generated worldwide media coverage and have provided fodder for books and a television movie.

The man who abducted her was convicted on federal kidnapping charges and is serving two life terms. His wife served eight years in prison and now lives in a halfway house in Salt Lake City.

Ms. Smart, who earned a music degree from Brigham Young University, now heads a foundation, works as a broadcast commentator and travels as a speaker and advocate for trauma victims. She also lobbies for legislation to protect victims.

She is married and the mother of three small children.

"I don't pity myself for what it's taught me," she said. "It's an incredibly empowering thing" to be able to tap her experience to help others who are in some "very dark places."

Shortly after she was kidnapped, Ms. Smart said, "I made a decision I would do whatever I had to do to survive."

Though that decision was tested almost daily as she endured sexual abuse and torture by her captors, she said she held on to the conviction that her parents would love her no matter how badly she was treated. "That would be worth surviving for," she said.

She told members of the audience the painful episodes they've experienced are no less significant than her well-publicized kidnapping.

"Don't belittle the pain you felt," she said quoting words her mother said to her the day after Ms. …

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