STORIES
Young Heroes

Elizabeth Smart

by Sydney Eminhizer from United States

135880Elizabeth SmartKOMUnews [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]“He could kill me with nothing but a twist of his hands. No one would ever know. Nobody was there to protect me. Nobody was there to take care of me. I had to watch out for myself” (Smart and Stewart). From the time she was kidnapped, Elizabeth Smart didn’t know if she would make it out alive. Determined to survive each day, she learned what a real hero is and how they work to inspire others. Of a religious family of five in a safe neighborhood, no one expected Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping. In 2002 at the age of 14, she was taken from her home in the middle of the night to a campsite where she would spend the next nine months of her life being abused (“Elizabeth Smart”). She wasn’t just held captive; she was raped, starved, and possibly brainwashed (“Elizabeth Did What She Had to do”). Nevertheless, she endured the pain because she knew the alternative could result in the murder of her family. Unwilling to jeopardize their lives, she risked hers instead, fighting the urge to call for help and resist her kidnappers. After her rescue, Smart’s story didn’t end. She continued on with her family life, but years later, she made the decision to use her experience to change the lives of other victims as well. In this way, she started and worked with other foundations, and encouraged individuals to overcome similar situations. "Some people will look at me and forever see the little 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped all those years ago, but when I look in the mirror, I see a wife, a mother, an advocate, a friend, a survivor” (qtd. In McClurg). From the neighborhood in Salt Lake City to the whole country, Smart has grown to become an inspiration in the lives of countless people. Many would agree that a hero must possess many qualities, including determination, positivity, and encouragement. While it’s not always easy to persist through difficult situations, giving up is never an option for a person who is dedicated to changing the lives of others. Someone who creates hope and cares for the victims during the most dreadful experiences will have an impact on them forever. This is a true hero, a life saver. Elizabeth Smart, whose story of abuse has been heard across the country, is more than a victim determined to turn her life around; she is also an example of positivity and is eager to support others throughout their suffering.

As a victim of abuse, Elizabeth Smart proves her determination by her survival and ability to continue living successfully. An example of her determination is how she tried many ways to survive, though they hurt her. After dealing with a tremendous amount of abuse, she decided to go along with what they wanted, and pretend to believe. “Finally her mindset changed where she decided to survive she should go along with their beliefs, said Smart. ‘ [I told myself to] do everything he told me to do to live. I did that until the very end’" (Netter, et al). As Smart shares what she went through and how she worked to make the best decisions, she demonstrates how this led to her survival. Though anyone in this situation would try their best to survive, not everyone would be willing to put their life on the line like this. She knew there was no one there to protect her and keep her safe. On her own, she made the brave decision to not give up and try every possible way to keep going. By believing that she could make it out alive, Smart was inspired to persevere. Elizabeth Smart didn’t solely show her determination through her survival; she also worked to improve her life and overcome the title of “kidnapped girl.” “I got married about six years ago to my best friend, to the best guy I could ever hope to marry, and we've got a 3-year-old daughter who looks at me only as Mama. She doesn't see an advocate, she doesn't see a victim, she just sees her mother” (qtd. in McClurg). Smart is sharing her determination to carry out a normal life. She won’t deny what happened to her. Nevertheless, she wants others to see her for the ways in which she turned her life around.  As seen by Elizabeth’s growing family, she was able to leave the detrimental aspect of her abuse in the earlier years of her life. She never could have done this without a strong determination to set her story back on track. While she is willing to advocate for victims and continue to share her experience, she strives to live out the life of a mother and a successful woman. As a determined survivor, there’s no question that Smart’s story inspires people across the country to stay strong.


A hero like Elizabeth Smart couldn’t inspire others without the positivity that keeps her going everyday. Smart’s positivity is one of the most important factors in the development of her foundations, the support groups she set up after her accepting and bravely admitting what happened in her past. “She’s also started the Elizabeth Smart foundation, and now fights for victims of sexual violence, a life she didn’t foresee, but one she is grateful for” (Vaughn). As an abuse victim, many agree that it wouldn’t be easy to return to the thoughts of her dreaded past. However, she knows it’s for the best of the people and that it will make a difference. People’s views needed to change, and it started with her. While most people would leave all their haunted memories in the past, Smart looks for ways to accept what happened and stay positive about it. In her eyes, she’s been given a gift to help others. Without this hardship, she wouldn’t be the hero she is today. Not only does Elizabeth radiate positivity through her gratefulness, but she also strives to become the happiest person she can be. As her mom says, “The best punishment you could ever give them is to be happy. Move forward with your life and follow your dreams.” (qtd. In Scott). Though her captors set her up to carry out a miserable life, Smart now lives by her mom’s advice: be happy at all costs. Elizabeth decided that what would make her happy is to seek justice for herself and other victims, as well as turning to family life. By this example, she demonstrates the significant impact positivity can have and how it can assist in having the most successful life. Elizabeth Smart, a heroic inspiration, shares her story in a way that teaches her followers how gratefulness and enthusiasm can go a long way.

Rather than forget about her experience, Smart decided to support others in seeking justice and overcoming their captor’s influence. As heard in an interview, the goal she lives to accomplish is convincing her community to stop hiding their secrets and feel comfortable sharing the dark parts of their lives (McClurg).  She wants the public to understand that a case like this should always be taken seriously. Without a cooperative community, how can these people be confident about revealing their heaviest secret? Elizabeth speaks to people on a large and small scale, hoping for all to turn an ear toward her message. As a speaker for the public, her emotion-filled story motivates people to cope with their situation in the same way she did. As reported by David Scott, “twelve years later, Smart is now the head of her own foundation and travels the country talking about how she climbed out of a pit of despair, of feeling worthless. Speaking to 1,600 people…” (Scott). Seen as a model by a startling number of people, Smart speaks out about her past, in hopes of comforting those in her shoes. Regardless of how much Elizabeth still suffers from the thoughts of her captors, she doesn’t fail to put herself out there as a mentor, someone to look up to. Imagine being held captive, young, alone, hungry, in constant fear of what’s to come next. How hard would it be to look back on this, and center your career around helping others in the same position? To Elizabeth, this doesn’t matter; she knows something has to be done and it starts with her. Expanding on Smart’s incredible incentive to speak to inspire large groups, she supports the individuals who come to her seeking help.  “I want them to know that if I’m speaking to them, it’s because I believe this will help their case, it will help their story, it will help other people out there by hearing this message” (qtd. In “Elizabeth Smart on Her Journey”). Elizabeth Smart inspires people by listening to their stories and letting them know that they will motivate other victims to seek justice and make a change in their life. As a victim herself, she works to track down other abusers and seeks justice for other people as well, not just for her own case. In a way, you could say she’s saving them. She’s saving them from a life of shame, denial, and harmful secrets. In the woods with her kidnappers, there was no guarantee she would live past fourteen, but she was given a new life, a second chance. Not everyone would look at this as an opportunity to give back, but that’s the kind of heroic choice Elizabeth Smart made. Acting as a beacon of hope for her peers, Smart supports the community to follow in her footsteps and make a meaningful change in their lives.

135881Elizabeth SmartMark Schierbecker [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]As a victim, advocate, daughter, and mother, Elizabeth Smart is not only the face of determination, but also, the positivity in her life coupled with her support for others makes her a deserving hero to look up to. Smart never gave up on her journey to survive and stayed determined to reset her life after the rescue. On the other hand, she didn’t act like her life had always been perfect; her story was one of many obstacles and she didn’t try to cover it up. Instead, Elizabeth looked at the experience as a gift, a way to give her life purpose, and became her own happiness. As she recalls in her biography, “I have been alive for 307 months. Nine of those months were pretty terrible. But 298 of those months have been very good. I have been happy. I have been very blessed.” (Smart and Stewart). This is an incredible thought, and a perfect take on life. This makes me think, everyday is a new day, and a new opportunity. If Elizabeth could leave her issues in the past, we can do the same. Not only does she weave joy into her own life, but she advocates for the people too afraid to admit it themselves. Elizabeth Smart is an inspiration to people in many ways. After a tough, 9-month experience in which she wasn’t sure she’d make it out alive, she still strives to help others. “But when we have passed our great test, we are then given opportunities to reach out to other people.” (Smart and Stewart). As a servant to the public and other victims, she made a mark on the world by expressing her scars and looking at the benefits in the long run. She makes it easy to relate to her situation, for those who are not a victim of kidnapping and abuse. In general, our most difficult misfortunes can make us better people, grown in strength, compassion, hope, and appreciation. Personally, I look up to her as an example because of the way she gives her life purpose. Though I can’t recall an experience as life-changing as this, I know I can use my past experiences and those to come as a motive to find my intent in life. Her story also reminds me that if something’s really meant to be, it will come to you.  Smart is a hero, an idol for us to look up to and learn from, not because of her fame, but because of her determination, positivity, and intent to motivate others. We may never be forced to endure such a pivotal hardship, but Smart’s story isn’t for anyone to overlook. By looking up to her as an example in our lives, we can learn to stay determined, radiate positivity, and work to assist others.

Works Cited

"ELIZABETH DID WHAT SHE HAD TO' : FAMILY BELIEVES SHE WAS BOUND." New York Post[New York, NY], 16 Mar. 2003, p. 09. Biography In Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A98920207/BIC?u=powa9245&sid=BIC&xid=75668. Accessed 9 May 2018.

"Elizabeth Smart." Gale Biography in Context, Gale, 2011. Biography In Context, Accessed 3 May 2018.

“Elizabeth Smart on Her Journey from Survival to Inspiration.” Crimewatch, Crime Watch Daily, 27 Oct. 2016, crimewatchdaily.com/2016/10/27/elizabeth-smart-on-her-journey-from-survival-to-inspiration/.

McClurg, Jocelyn. "Elizabeth Smart: Proud to be a survivor." USA Today. 2 Apr. 2018. Biography In Context, Accessed 3 May 2018.

Netter, Sarah, et al. “Elizabeth Smart Tells Court How She Survived Nine Month Abduction.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 8 Nov. 2010. abcnews.go.com/US/elizabeth-smart-testfiies-indescribable-fear-abductors-trial/story?id=12089117.

Scott, David Clark. "How Elizabeth Smart survived her abduction and rape." Christian Science Monitor, 4 Oct. 2014. Biography In Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A384586558/BIC?u=powa9245&sid=BIC&xid=9ac9e41f. Accessed 7 May 2018.

Smart, Elizabeth, and Chris Stewart. My Story. St. Martin’s Press, 2015.

Vaughn, Jennifer. “Elizabeth Smart says she hopes to inspire others by telling her story.” WMURUS. 3 November 2017. https://www.wmur.com/article/elizabeth-smart-says-she-hopes-to-inspire-others-by-telling-her-story/13151916 Web. Accessed 4 May 2018.

Page created on 5/21/2018 5:02:37 PM

Last edited 9/27/2019 1:10:39 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.
 

Related Links

Elizabeth Smart Foundation - After her rescue, Smart began a foundation to motivate and support those who would benefit from hearing her story. This website includes videos and contacts, and accepts donations.
Interview with Elizabeth Smart - This website includes an interview with Elizabeth Smart, as well as a brief summary of her story.