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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Abducted, abused, unbroken: Activist Elizabeth Smart makes A&M appearance

Shelby Knowles

Elizabeth Smart shared her story of abduction and empowerment to students on campus Thursday. 

Elizabeth Smart was 14 years old when a man woke her up, held a knife to her neck, and abducted her from home.
The man, who believed it was God’s will to make young girls his wives, held her in captivity for the next nine months until the police returned her safely to her family. 13 year’s later, Smart took the stage in front of a sold out audience at Rudder Theater Thursday to recount her harrowing experience with abduction. Despite the dark nature of her situation, Smart managed to stay relatable, riveting and light.

Smart began her presentation by saying she’s never met anyone perfect and without challenges in life.

So many times we think of our problems and think ‘Why does this happen to me,’ or ‘Why does it have to happen right now?’” Smart said.  “But you never know how these events are going to shape you and affect those around you.”

Smart said she’s not sorry she was kidnapped.

“I don’t feel bad for myself, and I’m grateful that it happened because of what it taught me,” Smart said. 

Smart uses her experience to advocate for awareness for child abduction, trafficking and Internet safety. She wrote a New York Times best-selling book, “My Story,” and spearheads the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, an organization dedicated to working with countries all over the world to help rescue children from human trafficking.

“Kidnapping is everywhere,” Smart said. “It’s not just in back alleys, the wrong side of the tracks, or in third world countries. We need to start talking about it and raise awareness.”

Alcee Embry, accounting graduate student, said Smart’s presentation told a very real story and told people something they needed to hear.
“[Smart] embodies characteristics of a woman who fully knows and is comfortable with who she is and what she believes,” Embry said. “She also has a platform to encourage others who have been victims of sexual assault and violence.”

Smart said she had an ideal childhood growing up with a big family and protective parents.
“Nothing bad could ever happen to us,” Smart said. Until one night, she woke up to a strange man holding a knife to her neck, instructing her to leave the house with him without making a sound.

“I’ve never seen a happy ending on the news of a child being kidnapped,” Smart said. “I told the kidnapper that if he was going to murder me, just do it here and don’t go too far. I wanted my family to know I didn’t run away and that I wasn’t rebelling.”

In the name of religion, Smart’s kidnapper attempted to persuade her it was God’s will for him to kidnap young girls and make them his wives. Smart was repeatedly beat and raped.

“I felt so dirty, filthy and broken,” Smart said. “I thought of the stories of kidnapped kids on the news and thought they were the lucky ones because no one could ever hurt them again. They didn’t have to live like this.”

Smart cited her faith and her family as primal in motivating her to survive and keep pushing through her kidnapping.

“Maybe nobody else would accept me back, but I’d still have my parents who loved me,” Smart said. “And I had my siblings, and they didn’t have a choice. It’s not like they could vote me off the island.”

After a ripple of laughter went through the theater, Smart said it was this realization that was worth surviving for. Time has a funny way of continuing to move, no matter what, she added.  

Throughout the presentation, Smart maintained an optimistic outlook on a dark situation. She juxtaposed her perseverance with humor and amiability.

“After I got rescued and was reunited with my dad, he puts me on the phone with my mom who’s just going crazy,” Smart said. “And right as I’m about to speak to her … my dad’s phone dies. So much for the most important phone call of my life.”

Smart said she adds a humorous element to her presentations to alleviate the grief of her situation.

“I don’t want people to walk away feeling disheartened. I want them to know there is hope out there and we can do something about it — and we are.” Smart said. “I’d much rather see people laugh than cry.”

Finance sophomore, Chandni Shah, said Smart’s presentation style brought her story to life.

“It made what she went through so much more relatable and truly made me realize that [her kidnapping] can happen to anybody,” Shah said.

Smart said she maintained her optimism by staying happy and moving forward with life.

“Reliving and dwelling in the past only allows my kidnappers to steal more from my life and they don’t deserve that,” Smart said. “Moving forward takes time, and we are all different people who take different paths. But I truly believe we will all find it in the end and that happiness in life is worth fighting for.”

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