Editorials

Elizabeth Smart's talk on abduction, human trafficking is inspiring, cautionary

Elizabeth Smart spoke about her harrowing, nine-month experience as a child abduction victim when she was 14 years old to a group of about 350 people in Sarasota Wednesday. KATE IRBY/Bradenton Herald
Elizabeth Smart spoke about her harrowing, nine-month experience as a child abduction victim when she was 14 years old to a group of about 350 people in Sarasota Wednesday. KATE IRBY/Bradenton Herald

We can only hope victims of human trafficking and their families and friends took notice of Elizabeth Smart's valiant address to about 350 people as reported in the Herald earlier this month.

Smart's wise words about her 2002 kidnapping and repeated rapes over nine months at the hands of a man and woman provide inspiration about recovering from an unthinkable ordeal, which included death threats to her and her family. Her speech at New College sponsored by Designing Women Boutique and Selah Freedom, a local human trafficking victim support organization, linked her experience with trafficking.

Once rescued during a traffic stop, her mother gave her wise advice: "Elizabeth," Smart recounted, "what these people have done to you is terrible, and there aren't words strong enough to describe how wicked and evil they are, and they've stolen nine months of your life away from you that you will never get back. The best punishment you could give them is to be happy, to move forward with your life and do all the things you want to do, because by feeling sorry for yourself, that's only allowing them to steal more of your life away from you."

She is indeed happy. And her mother's words apply to many bad experiences.

Smart also cautioned against people asking trafficking victims why they didn't run away. "They don't hear: 'Why didn't you?' They hear: 'You should have,' which is just as damaging as what they actually went through. So for me, and other survivors ... it's because we've been so threatened, we've been so manipulated."

That's excellent advice for family and friends of trafficking victims: Avoid blaming someone for being an abuse victim.

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