Elizabeth Smart Delivers Message Of Hope In Spokane - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Elizabeth Smart Delivers Message Of Hope In Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. - In the face of unthinkable hardship, a message of hope. Elizabeth Smart spoke for the first time in Spokane as the keynote speaker for the Women Helping Women Fund luncheon at the Spokane Convention Center Monday.

Smart is the Salt Lake City woman who was kidnapped from her bedroom at age 14 and held captive for nine months. She now travels the world advocating for children's safety.

"It's a message of hope in that tragedy can happen to all of us," Smart said. "We all have our ups and downs, we all have our trials. None of us are immune to that. but it's also that we can overcome these trials, these tragedies, we can overcome them and be happy again."

Smart was abducted from her family home in Salt Lake City in 2002 by Brian Mitchell. During her captor's trial in 2010, she described her kidnapping in excruciating detail, including how she was forced into a polygamous marriage with Mitchell, was subjected to near-daily rapes, and forced to use drugs and alcohol. She also testified that she was forced to live homeless, dress in disguises, and stay quiet or lie about her identity if ever approached by strangers.

Smart said her faith has always been a huge part of her life and what has helped her through the years.

"I've always believed in God and I always will," she continued. "There's a quote that I love from Mother Theresa. She said, 'I know God will never give me anything that I can't handle but I just wish he wouldn't trust me so much,' and sometimes I think, probably all of us feel like that."

Smart was rescued in 2003, about 18 miles from her home, in the company of Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. Mitchell and Barzee were later indicted for Smart's kidnapping. While they were initially ruled unfit to stand trial, Barzee and Mitchell were eventually convicted in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Mitchell was held in the Salt Lake County Jail following his sentencing on May 25, 2011. On August 31, he was transferred to federal prison to begin serving a life sentence for his crimes.

On Monday, Smart said it was incredibly heartening to see that people in Spokane still care about her story and are working to ensure that no other child goes through what she did by advocating for children's safety. She also echoed something we hear local authorities often say: If you 'see something, say something.'

"Because of two phone calls that were made - I think within 10 minutes of each other - on March 12, 2003, I was rescued," Smart said. "And you just never know who you're going to help or who you're going to save...What greater act of service could you possibly do?"

The Women Helping Women Fund celebrated its 20th anniversary at its annual luncheon Monday. In two decades, it has raised $5.4 million and given grants to 350 programs that help women and children.

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