Elizabeth Smart was just 14 years old when she was kidnapped from her family’s home during the middle of the night in Salt Lake City in 2002.
Brian David Mitchell, her abductor, forced her to hike for hours before chaining her to a makeshift campsite and holding her captive for the next nine months.
When she first arrived, Mitchell’s wife forced her to undress and put on long linen robes so she could perform a marriage ceremony.
“I was begging and crying and just so scared,’’ Smart said during an interview in 2013. “I remember thinking, I know what comes after a wedding. And that cannot happen to me. That cannot happen.”
“Over the next nine months, Brian David Mitchell would rape me every day, sometimes multiple times a day, he would torture and brutalize me in ways that are impossible to imagine, starve and manipulate me, like I was an animal.”
“If I could’ve slept for nine months, I would’ve,” she added. “That’s where I could go to almost and not feel the pain, not feel the despair, not feel everything that was happening to me.”
“There was a point that I stopped crying. It’s not just because I didn’t feel pain any more, not because I didn’t feel sorrow. It was just to keep going. I mean, it just was to survive, to live.”
“My family was still there,” she said. “And because of that, because I had that and because I knew that, I was able to make the decision to do whatever it took.”
Mitchell was later recognized while the group was hitchhiking towards the East Coast. Police later apprehended him and reunited Smart with her family.
Now 28, Smart has started the Elizabeth Smart Foundation so she can help prevent crimes against children and help other victims of sexual abuse.