Elizabeth Smart Empowers Women With Stories of Surviving Rape, Abduction

Kimberly RipleyLife

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Elizabeth Smart will forever be remembered as the little Mormon girl from Utah, who was abducted in the middle of the night, held captive, and raped repeatedly for nine months. Word of her being found alive spread like wildfire across TV screens in the U.S. and abroad. Most people felt she would never be seen again.

These days she is Elizabeth Smart-Gilmour, and she is using her harrowing ordeal as a means to empower women. She spoke at the YWCA of Rochester's 2014 Empowering Women Luncheon in New York last week. As part of her own foundation, this is what she does. She travels and speaks--content that her captors, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, are imprisoned, and in hopes that she can use her ordeal as a means of helping others.

"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," Smart said her mother told her. "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," she said at the event.

"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," she added.

The Elizabeth Smart Foundation was founded as Elizabeth's way to bring awareness to predatory crimes against children. Just about one year ago her book, My Story, was published. It details the kidnapping and months in captivity as experienced by a 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart.

Elizabeth Smart is truly amazing. To have not only survived her ordeal intact, but to turn it into a means of helping others is truly inspirational. May her stories continue to empower everyone she meets and may her efforts prevent others from experiencing the nightmare she once lived.

Kimberly Ripley
Kimberly Ripley is a freelance writer and published author from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A wife, mom of five and 'Nana' to Lilly and Aiden, she loves cooking for her big family and watching HGTV in her spare time. Kim is guilty of starting way more home design projects than she can finish. Visit her at Twitter and Facebook.