Elizabeth Smart has been a part of the ABC News team for just over three years now, and also heads up her own foundation, traveling the country talking about her nine month ordeal at the age of 14, having been abducted from her home and raped by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee.
Twelve years after that horrific ordeal, Smart is empowering people as a result of her experience. Speaking to a packed crowd on Thursday at the YWCA of Rochester’s 2014 Empowering Women Luncheon, she recalled what her mother told her when she returned home from the kidnapping.
Smart recalled her mother giving her these words of wisdom.
“What these people have done to you is terrible and there aren’t words strong enough to describe how wicked and evil these people are. But the best punishment you could ever give them is to be happy. Move forward with your life and follow your dreams, do exactly what you want to do because by feeling sorry for yourself and by dwelling in the past… that’s only allowing these people to steal more of your life away from you and they don’t deserve a single second more.”
Having put the past behind her as best as possible, Smart got married in 2012 and now lives in Park City, Utah, having opened the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to bring awareness to predatory crimes against children.
As Elizabeth Smart addressed the captivated crowd, she recalled the harrowing experience.
“I remember just sitting down… I felt like what was the point in even trying any more… I should just give up because I was now worthless, I was chained up… and I remember my mom telling me that she would always love me, no matter what. I didn’t matter where I went or the people I hung out with or the choices I made, she would always love me. It doesn’t mean she would always agree with me or that my decisions would always make her happy but that she would always love me… I remember that giving me so much hope and deciding that was worth surviving for, that was worth living for. Maybe nobody else would ever accept me back or maybe nobody else would want anything to do with me ever again. But that was enough.”
The Empowering Women Luncheon in Rochester is known to be a major fundraiser for the YWCA, and it helps to find programs and strengthen local woman who need support for personal tragedies, such as unwanted pregnancy and financial issues.