When Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her family’s home in Salt Lake City in 2002, it was the start of a harrowing nine month trial for the 14-year-old.
Smart’s sister Mary Katherine watched, pretending to be asleep, as a strange man wandered into their room. The knife-wielding figure guided Elizabeth out of the house while Mary watched, helplessly. Months later, Mary Katherine would remember that the strange man had done odd jobs on the Smart family’s property.
The man, later identified as Brian David Mitchell, took Elizabeth to a campground in the mountains where he lived with his wife, Wanda Eileen Barzee. For nine months, Smart was their captive in the camp, and was repeatedly abused by Mitchell. Meanwhile, her kidnapping case was attracting national attention.
In the end a stroke of luck managed to save Elizabeth. Her story had been featured on the hit TV show America’s Most Wanted, and a biker recognized her and Mitchell from the recent episode. Since then, her dramatic story has been featured in TV documentaries, movies, and books.
But now Smart is telling her own story, and using it to help parents keep their children safe. Recently, she shared the 3 things every parent should tell their children…
In the years since her kidnapping, Smart has lived a full and happy life.
She’s a married mother-of-two, and works as a child safety advocate who often contributes to ABC News. Smart has managed to use her awful experience to help other children stay safe, and recently shared some important advice that every parent should take note of.
On the 15th anniversary of her kidnapping, there has been a surge of interest in Smart’s case. That led to the release of a new movie based on her abduction, and also a new documentary about Smart’s life. To promote the documentary, Smart held an Ask Me Anything (AMA) event on the website Reddit.
One user asked Smart this important question:
“In your opinion as a children’s advocate, what are some practical, commonsense steps parents can take to help their children avoid abuse? (And I guess I mean abuse in a general way, anything from extreme bullying to abduction.)”
Smart replied with three things every parent should tell their children:
- Make sure your child knows that they are loved unconditionally, and make sure your child knows what unconditionally means.
- Make sure your child understands that no one has the right to hurt them or scare them in any way. It doesn’t matter what that person may be: family, friend, religious leader, community leader, it doesn’t matter.
- Should anyone hurt your child or threaten them in any way, they need to tell you.