Published 11/18/15

Kidnapping victim reminds Bryant audience: "We're all survivors of life"

Elizabeth SmartMany of those who came to hear Elizabeth Smart speak about “Overcoming Adversity” at Bryant University on November 17 have experienced a failed relationship or the death of a beloved family member. Smart, however, deserves a doctorate in resilience: At 14, she was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home, raped, shackled, and held captive for nine months before her March 2003 rescue.

"The best punishment you could ever give them is to be happy. They don’t deserve a single second of your time.”

Before an audience of more than 400 people, Smart never faltered in recounting the atrocities inflicted by her captors, whom she didn’t name. In traveling to promote her book, My Story, she discovered, “None of us has a perfect life. It’s not so much what happens to you that defines you; it’s the choices you make afterwards.”

Her mother’s advice the morning after her rescue empowered her to fully embrace a full and happy life. Quoting her mother, Smart said, “What these people have done … is so terrible … there are no words to describe all the evil … they took nine months of your life that you will never get back. The best punishment you could ever give them is to be happy. They don’t deserve a single second of your time.”

Through her book, the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, and lobbying for stronger child protection laws, Smart hopes to help others. So many good people strive to better the world, despite the horrors shown daily on the news, she said.

Don’t ever ask a survivor why she didn’t run or scream for help, Smart said emphatically. “Survivors hear, ‘She should have run [or] screamed.’ They are amazing … heroes for surviving; so many people don’t survive. Don’t ask anyone that… it’s the wrong question.”

Smart noted, “Someone said, ‘We’re all survivors of life.’” Encouraging victims of violent crime to speak up for themselves and for potential future victims, she called keeping secrets “very self-destructive.”

Smart’s talk and book signing were hosted by Bryant’s Student Arts and Speaker Series (SASS).