How Elizabeth Smart Built the Elizabeth Smart Foundation

My whole life has prepared me for the work I’m doing today. One day, just over 20 years ago, I was kidnapped from my bedroom by a strange man with a knife. Brian David Mitchell, with the help of his wife, Wanda Barzee, held me hostage, and I faced repeated horrors as their captive. They kept me incredibly isolated and made me feel worthless. The threat of my death and the death of my loved ones hung over my head daily, and sexual assault and rape were a constant part of my life.

Nine months later, a bystander saw me walking with Mitchell and Barzee on State Street in Sandy, Utah. They recognized something about the situation and called the police. On one of the most joyous days of my entire life, Mitchell and Barzee were arrested, and I was reunited with my family.

When I came home, all I wanted was to be a normal 15-year-old girl. I wanted to go to high school, hang out with my friends, ride horses, and play the harp. A thrilling existence, I know. But at the time, I felt like I had encountered enough public attention to last a lifetime.

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