Elizabeth Smart speaks to Central Texas foster parents

Posted at 6:47 PM, Apr 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-03 15:20:10-04

Elizabeth Smart, a child safety activist, spoke to Central Texas foster parents at a conference Thursday. 

Smart lived in Utah with her parents and five siblings. 

In June of 2002, at the age of 14, she was kidnapped from her bed by Brian David Mitchell, who held a knife to her throat.

Mitchell took Smart up into the mountains where he and his wife, Wanda Barzee held her captive and sexually abused her for nine months.

The couple tried to convince Smart that Mitchell was a prophet and God had ordered him to kidnap her and make her his second wife. 

Mitchell and Barzee left Utah and took Smart to southern California for a period of time before Smart said, in an effort to manipulate the couple, told them she was feeling like God was calling them back to Utah instead of another part of the country. 

Smart said Mitchell was pleased because he thought she was finally giving in and agreed that God was calling them back to Utah.

In March of 2003, a passerby noticed Mitchell, Barzee and Smart in Utah and notified police. 

Smart was returned to her family on March 12, 2003.

Her story played a role in President George W. Bush's implementation of the "Amber Alert" system. 

In 2010, Smart's case went to trial in Salt Lake City. 

Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison and Brazee was sentenced to 15 years. 

Smart graduated from Brigham Young University and served a Mormon mission in France for a year and a half. 

During that mission, she met her husband, Matthew Gilmour of Scotland, who was also serving a Mormon mission in France. 

The two married in Hawaii in 2012 and have since had two children. 

Now, Smart is a child safety activist and pushes for legislation to be passed throughout the country.

"I think we still have a long ways to go as far as the legal system goes," Smart said. "Having been, having gone through that process myself, I remember feeling like my captors... it felt like they had more rights than I did. It felt like I got subpoenaed to show up, to do things, and they didn't have to do anything. They just sat there, and when they disrupted the courtroom, he'd get exactly what he wanted... he got led to a different room."  

She is currently researching each state's reporting guidelines for missing people and speaking with state representatives to see why they are not more streamline. 

Smart also founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to support and prevent others from falling victim to kidnap and abuse.

"Rape is rape and it doesn't matter if you're kidnapped from your bedroom at knifepoint in the middle of the night, taken up into the mountains and raped or if you're at a bar and you get drunk or someone drugs you... rape is never okay," Smart said.  

Smart also serves as an ABC News correspondent for missing-person cases. 

Thursday, she shared her tragic story at a Fostering Community conference held by Baylor Scott & White McLane Children's and thanked Central Texas foster parents for providing love and support to survivors like herself. 

"For these survivors, many of the people that they interact with here, they become that family because of family... I know a lot of us automatically think people who were born to, our biological parents or who are our legal guardians... but that's not always the case, I mean family... they're the people that have your back, they're the people who love you unconditionally, they're the people who stand up for you."

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