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Elizabeth Smart | Overcoming Trauma

Elizabeth Smart | Overcoming Trauma

Elizabeth Smart - Reclaim Your Power

Today, one of her captors was released from jail. This is Elizabeth Smart’s message about being at peace with her past and finding her power back.


I may always be known as the girl that was kidnapped. The day that it happened, he had broken into my home, he had taken me out my back door, taken me up into the mountains behind my home. And almost the first thing he did when he brought me into camp was he had his wife come out, and he had her change me, and she tried to sponge bathe me. And then she stepped away and he came in. And that's when he told me that I was now his wife, and that it was now time to consummate our marriage. Well, as a 14 year old girl, I remember just stopping and thinking, "Wait a second," and I had this thought of what he could possibly mean. I had it come to my mind. I remember thinking, "No, that's not possible. One human being couldn't possibly do that to another one. No one's that evil."

And I quickly found out that, yes, as a matter of fact, there are people out there that are that evil.

The morning after I was rescued, my mom gave me the best piece of advice I've ever been given. And I'd always listened to my mom's advice, I'd always tried to follow it. I fall short of it probably far too often.

She said, "Elizabeth, what these people have done to you is terrible, and there aren't words strong to describe how wicked and evil they are. They have stolen nine months of your life away from you that you will never get back. But the best punishment you could ever give them is to be happy, is to move forward with your life, to do all the things that you want to do. Because by feeling sorry for yourself, by holding on to the past, by reliving in it, that's only allowing them to steal more of your life away from you. And they don't deserve that. They don't deserve a single second more. So you need to be happy, and you need to move on with your life."

And I remember leading up to the trial, I was actually very nervous to see my captors again. I hadn't seen them in person since the day I was rescued. I didn't know how I was going to react. They brought Brian Mitchell into the room, and he still had his long beard and his long hair, but he was shackled, with his hands, around his waist, and his feet. And there were two guards on either side of him, escorting him into the courtroom.

I realized in that moment, that I had followed my mom's advice. That I didn't need to be scared of what he would make me feel, because I realized that he had no power over me any more, and I remember how empowering that felt to me. On the last day of the trial, when the verdict came in that he was found guilty, I remember the judge looking at me and asking me if I had anything to say to him.

I do remember just standing up and saying that he had no further hold on me, that he never would, and that I was going to live a wonderful life. And if I didn't say that in words, I certainly thought that.

I realized that forgiveness is not for the other person. It's for yourself. Life is so worthwhile, and no matter what has happened to you, no matter what your background is, no matter what your past is, each of us deserve to be happy. Bad things do happen, but that doesn't mean that they need to define us or to destroy our life.

And yes, I may always be known as the girl that was kidnapped, but that's okay, because I know that that's not all who I am. That happened to me, but I have not let that stop me from going on, getting married, having a family, becoming an advocate for change, becoming an advocate for women and children, and really all victims. We have things that happen to us, and yes, they shape us, they mold us. But they don't have to define us, because in the end, what defines you is how you react, are the decisions that you make.

So I hope that whatever you're faced with, whatever you deal with, you just remember that you are who you decide to be. You are captain of your destiny. You are the one that decides who you are. Thank you!

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