North Texas Daily

Elizabeth Smart shares her story to sold-out crowd at UNT

Elizabeth Smart shares her story to sold-out crowd at UNT

February 14
00:26 2017

Jackie Guerrero | Staff Writer

Fifteen years after being abducted, Elizabeth shared her story about moving forward in life and to finding a happy ending, no matter the circumstances to a sold-out lecture crowd at UNT.

A now married and pregnant Smart shared her story with North Texas Thursday night. After being abducted at the age of 14, Smart continues to spread her message and share her story almost 15 years later.

She said being a victim does not define a person, the the choices a person makes defines them. Smart opened up her lecture by talking about people’s common “universal” problems. 

“No matter who you are, where you are from, what stage in life you are in, we all have problems, it is universal,” said Smart. “It is not our problems that defines who we are. It is what we decide to do and the choices we make.”

In a pre-lecture interview, Smart said she feels it is important that students support each other, especially those who have gone through something like sexual violence. She wishes “campus rape culture” would stop and said it is “not acceptable,” Smart said, putting emphasis on Greek life. 

“Make sure that the students are following protocol,” she said. “That there is someone sober there to make sure that people who are too drunk are watched, and not taken advantage of. Pretty basic simple rules.”

The kidnapping

Early the night before she was kidnapped from her Utah home, she was excited about a trip she was going on with one of her friends to Beaver, Utah. Smart remembered her older brother, Charles questioning her about going to this part of Utah.

After he questioned her again, Smart said to him, “What if those were the last words you ever said to me?”

The next set of words Smart heard after she spoke to her brother were not what she expected. She was in her bedroom and someone from behind said, “I have a knife at your neck, don’t make a noise.”

Nothing in her life had prepared her for that moment. After she was abducted and taken from her home, she was forced to go into the mountains with her abductor. Once she reached the top of the mountain she was told she was now his wife.

The most frightening thing to Smart was the woman she encountered at the grounds she was being kept in, deep in the mountains. This woman was the man’s real wife.

“I had an immediate gut reaction to this woman and it was not good,” Smart said. “She started hugging me. It wasn’t a nice a hug.”

Message of hope

There were times she wanted to give up, but she remembered her mom telling her about how much she loved her. This helped Smart stay strong and continue to survive.

“I would do whatever it took to survive,” she said. “There are so many times when I wanted to give up. There were plenty of times when I said ‘this isn’t living.’”

Smart was rescued and returned to her family after nine months of captivity. One of her happiest moments of her life was when she saw her parents again. After adjusting to being back home and realizing she was not getting those nine months back, Smart’s mother told her to not feel sorry for herself and to continue to move forward. Her family has always been a huge support system.

Besides her family, another coping mechanism for Smart was music. She has played the harp since she was little and also studied it in college. Music is a big part of her life.

“I know it sounds cliché but music is kind of that unspoken language everyone understands,” Smart said. “Whatever you can’t articulate, you can express.”

Above all she wanted to leave the audience with a message of peace and perseverance. 

“Don’t give up,” she said. “ Don’t lose faith. Believe in happiness. Believe there is a happy ever after.”

Featured Image: Elizabeth Smart, a woman who was kidnapped at age 14, talked to a sold out audience at the University of North Texas as a distinguished lecturer. Tomas Gonzalez

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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