Kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart recalls feeling ‘broken beyond repair’
Kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart has described how the nine-month ordeal initially left her feeling “broken beyond repair”.
In an interview on US television, Smart recalls being kidnapped from her Salt Lake City bedroom when she was 14-years-old in 2002, NBCnews.com reports.
Her abductor was religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell, who forced her to hike up the mountainside behind her home for hours before reaching a makeshift campsite.
There she was met by Mitchell’s wife and accomplice Wanda Barzee, wearing long linen robes. Barzee ordered Smart to undress and began performing a kind of “marriage ceremony”.
“Things that I’d always told myself I’d never do, I would do them if it meant I would survive. If it meant that one day I would be able to go back home and be with my family again, I would do it,” says Smart.
“I was begging and crying and just so scared,” Smart said. “I remember thinking, I know what comes after a wedding. And that cannot happen to me. That cannot happen.”
“I remember him forcing me onto the ground, (and) fighting the whole way,” she said. “And then when he was finished, he stood up, and I was left alone, feeling absolutely broken, absolutely shattered. I was broken beyond repair. I was going to be thrown away.”
Smart, 25, was later chained to a tree and abused for months. “Over the next nine months, Brian David Mitchell would rape me every day, sometimes multiple times a day, he would torture and brutalise me in ways that are impossible to imagine, starve and manipulate me, like I was an animal,” Smart writes in her memoir My Story.
One time, she was close to being rescued by her uncle, who she could hear calling her name. Mitchell grabbed her, “I will kill you if you make a noise. I will kill whoever comes up here to find you. If they ever get into this camp I will kill them,” he told her.
Any attempt to resist Mitchell inspired further threats. “He looked at me and he said, ‘If you ever scream out like that again, I will kill you. If it’ll help you not scream out, I can duct tape your mouth shut,’” she recalled.
Sleep was Smart’s only respite from the living hell. “If I could’ve slept for nine months, I would’ve,” she says. “That’s where I could go to almost and not feel the pain, not feel the despair, not feel everything that was happening to me.”
Eventually, she says, she stopped crying – not because she was no longer in pain but simply as a means to survive. She stayed strong by thinking of her family and her Mormon faith.
She recounts how on one occasion when the camp’s water supply ran dry and she was dehydrated, she awoke to an ice-cold cup of water. Smart was convinced it was a sign from God. “I could just feel the cold water running down inside of me and just how grateful I was for it. And just feeling like it was God telling me that I wasn’t forgotten, that He still knew I was there. And that He wasn’t abandoning me,” she says.
During an outing to the public library, to map out a route to California, where the trio moved for the winter, Smart came close to being rescued once again. She was questioned by a police officer who had received a tip that she had been spotted, but she chose not to scream for help or try to run away, for fear of her life and her family members’ lives. “And those two threats right there are stronger than chains for me,” she said.
Once in California, Smart was convinced that she would be with Mitchell and Barzee until they died. It wasn’t until Mitchell suggested that the group move across the country to the East Coast that Smart saw a chance to use the trust she’d earned.
Smart told Mitchell she had a feeling God wanted them to return to Utah, reasoning to herself there was a higher probability people there would recognise her. But she had to convince him it was his idea, asking him to confer with God. “You are His servant, you’re His prophet. You’re practically his best friend. Could you please ask Him?,” she told him.
Mitchell prayed and agreed with Smart, deciding the group would hitchhike back to Utah, which gave Smart hope she might be recognised. Unbeknownst to her, by this time, Smart’s sister Mary Katherine – who had witnessed the kidnapping – had realised the identity of the man who took Elizabeth. A sketch was featured on America’s Most Wanted and sightings were reported one Smart and her kidnappers returned to Utah.
The group were taken to a police station, where Smart was reunited with her father.
Seven years later, Smart testified against her captors. Mitchell is now serving a life sentence and Barzee 15 years.
Smart has gone on to marry a fellow Mormon, Scot Matthew Gilmore, who she met during a missionary year in France. She has also penned her memoir and created the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to help prevent crimes against children and help victims of sexual abuse. She attributes her accomplishments and recovery to the support of her family.
“Elizabeth, what this man has done to you is terrible,” she says her mother told her. “He has stolen nine months of your life that you will never get back. But the best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy.”
Source: Daily Telegraph