Elizabeth Smart in Grand Rapids: It’s okay to speak out

Posted at 6:25 PM, Mar 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-16 20:29:46-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted from her parents' home in Utah back in 2002, spoke about hellish reality of rape and abduction at the J.W. Marriott Thursday.

"I heard the voice, 'I have a knife at your neck, don’t make a sound and come with me,'" Smart said at the hotel Thursday, sharing her story of pain on behalf of the YWCA's Open Table luncheon.

It's been 15 years since Elizabeth Smart-Gilmour was abducted from her own bedroom at her parents' house in Salt Lake City. Smart's disappearance, rescue, and nearly nine year fight to bring justice to her captors, Briand Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, were in the national spotlight for years.

"I was kidnapped by a stranger, raped by a stranger, and for 9 months I was abused by strangers," Smart said. "Every life they touched, they destroyed. That really started getting me to think, 'maybe I should do something.'"

Smart has found a way to turn her tragedy into power by making it her life's mission to prevent crimes like this through a non-profit called The Elizabeth Smart Foundation.

"I think it’s so easy for people to think, ‘well, that sort of thing doesn’t happen in my neighborhood, that would never happen to me,'" said Smart.

Elizabeth has also become a special correspondent for 'Crime Watch Daily,' using her unique story as a way to relate with and share other stories of rape and abduction. Today, Smart is married and has a daughter with a baby boy on the way.

The YWCA West Central Michigan is dedicated to eliminating racism, and empowering women and girls. If you or anyone you know is in need of help, contact the YWCA at (616)-454-YWCA.