Elizabeth Smart: Child Safety Activist

by Naomi Gledhill from MY HERO Staff

"Bringing hope and ending the victimization and exploitation of sexual assault through education, healing, and advocacy." - The Elizabeth Smart Foundation

153168Elizabeth Smart speaks at the University of Missouri in Columbia, 2014.Wikimedia Commons

American activist, author and speaker Elizabeth Smart was born on November 3, 1987, in Salt Lake City, Utah. She has four brothers and a sister, and her family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Smart had a typical upbringing and attended Bryant Middle School and East High School in her hometown until in 2002, at just 14 years old, she was abducted and held captive for nine months by a man and his wife. She endured horrific abuse at the hands of her captors but was fortunately found by police in March of 2003 after witnesses recognized Smart’s kidnappers on an episode of America’s Most Wanted. Thankfully, though after a lengthy legal process, both were sentenced and sent to prison.

Following her traumatic experience, Smart has strongly advocated for child safety using her story to inspire others to fight for changes in legislation and protective measures for children. In 2006, she stood U.S. Congress to advocate for the AMBER Alert System; if a child is reported missing, alerts are issued via radio and television stations, text messages, email, billboards and traffic signs, in the hopes that more people will be aware of and therefore looking out for the missing child. Smart also made a speech the same year, after President George W. Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a statute requiring sex offenders to register and disclose their location to authorities. The act is divided into tiers dependent on the severity of the offense committed. In 2014, she testified in support of a bill that would provide schools in Utah with training on child sexual abuse prevention.

153169Elizabeth Smart meets (Former) President George W. Bush at the White House following the signing of the Adam Walsh Act, 2003. Wikimedia Commons

In 2011, Smart founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which is dedicated to the prevention of, and support following, experiences of sexual violence. The foundation offers training and classes in self-defense for women and girls, education on how to support someone reporting sexual violence through ‘We Believe You,’ and a series of ‘Smart Talks,’ in which Elizabeth speaks to a variety of guests offering insight into different aspects of the aftermath of sexual violence.

Elizabeth has also made several speeches in which she has shared her story in the hopes of inspiring survivors of abuse to take back control and maintain their self-worth following the abuse. In particular, she has spoken openly about a need for change in attitudes towards women’s self-worth in relation to sexual contact, arguing that harmful notions about purity can be extremely damaging to a person’s self-worth following sexual violence. She has also spoken on numerous occasions about how her faith has helped her in navigating such a traumatic experience and how it has helped her to overcome such adversity.

Smart has also detailed her experience and subsequent healing process in her New York Times best-selling book, My Story, and her new book Where There’s Hope. The book is described on Smart’s web page as, “an up-close-and-personal glimpse into her healing process and a heartfelt how-to guide for readers to make peace with the past and embrace the future.”[1]

Through adversity and trauma, Elizabeth Smart has helped educate and support people from all over the world; she has had a significant impact on legislation regarding child safety, has curated resources for both parents and children in order to help prevent abuse, and has worked tirelessly to support women and children in the aftermath of sexual violence. 

[1] Elizabeth's Story. [Online] Available

Page created on 11/2/2023 11:00:52 PM

Last edited 11/17/2023 4:03:42 PM

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.


, . Elizabeth's Story. [Online] Available

, . Elizabeth Smart Foundation. [Online] Available

, . My Story - Elizabeth Smart - TED Talk. [Online] Available

, . Elizabeth Smart. [Online] Available