Before speaking in front of a crowd in Jesse Auditorium, activist Elizabeth Smart held a press conference where she spoke about the importance of preventing sexual abuse, domestic violence and kidnapping.
When Smart was 14, she was abducted from her bed in the middle of the night. She spent nine months being held captive and bineg repeatedly raped before she was found and returned to her family.
While many people who go through such trauma might immerge pessimistic and haunted by their experiences, Smart has turned her past into a positive and dedicated her life to speaking out.
“I knew that I can allow these people who have stolen nine months of my life away from me to continue to keep happiness from me,” Smart says. “Or I can decide to be happy, and I can move forward, and I can find those things that are going to make me happy and are important to me and those things I want to do. So I made up my mind. I have my ups and downs, but I think I have a lot more ups than I do downs.”
Smart says her family, faith and community have played an important role in her road to recovery.
“My grandpa used to live by this saying, ‘Much is given, much is expected,’ and I have been given so much in my life,” Smart says. “I have had the ultimate miracle in my life. I survived. I am alive. I am here today, whereas so many children do not come back, they do not survive. And I feel like I have been given this opportunity to make a difference and to speak out so what happened to me doesn’t happen to anybody else. So I would feel extremely ungrateful if I did not go out and speak out about this and try to make a difference and try to help other women and children.”
This last week, Smart has been at the capitol of Utah trying to help pass a prevention education bill. Smart says this bill would allow schools to teach safety prevention to children.
“We’re all taught what to do in a fire — stop, drop, roll,” Smart says. “To get under the desk or in a door frame if there’s an earthquake. I’m not saying that either of these things is impossible, that they’re not going to happen, but abuse happens much more often. So education is something we should be teaching much more than we are taught right now.”
Smart continued to stress the importance of educating children about sexual abuse, despite the topic being difficult to talk about.
“What people do not realize is that over 85 percent of the children who do fight back, they get away, they’re not kidnapped,” Smart says. “So if we can approach that topic before it comes up, then we have a much greater chance at avoiding any situation like this.”
Smart will speak at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Jesse Auditorium.