Abducted from her bedroom on June 5, 2002, at the age of 14, Utah resident Elizabeth Smart was imprisoned and sexually abused by her captors for nine months before being rescued by the police. She will tell her story on Monday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in Cole Hall at Bridgewater College.
Smart’s captors exerted control over her by threatening to kill both her and her family if she tried to escape. An alert biker spotted Smart in the company of her kidnappers and notified authorities, who rescued her and reunited her with her family on March 12, 2003.
Smart’s courtroom testimony helped lead to the conviction of her abductors.
Because of her experience, Smart has become an advocate for legislative change related to child abduction and recovery programs, and speaks on behalf of kidnapping survivors and child victims of violence and sexual abuse.
Smart says that her kidnapping helped her understand the depth of her love for her family and friends, and that she learned to take joy in the gift of life.
“I only have one life, and I’m not going to miss out on it,” she said. “When I’m through, I want to be able to say, ‘Wow, I lived a great life.’”
Smart serves as president of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, an organization that seeks to bring hope and stop victimization. She promotes the national AMBER Alert and the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act.
She has worked with other recovered young adults and the U.S. Department of Justice to create a survivors’ guide You’re Not Alone: The Journey From Abduction to Empowerment.
Smart has shared her story in interviews with Katie Couric and Oprah Winfrey, and is a contributor for ABC News on missing persons and child abduction cases.
In the spring of 2012, Smart earned a degree in music with an emphasis on harp performance from Brigham Young University.
The program at Bridgewater College is sponsored by the W. Harold Row Endowed Lecture Series and is free and open to the public.
Bridgewater College is a private, four-year liberal arts college located in the Central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Founded in 1880, it was the state’s first private, coeducational college. Today, Bridgewater College is home to approximately 1,750 undergraduate students.