The Elizabeth Smart story captivated the nation, especially Utah, from where Elizabeth was kidnapped and subjected to nightmarish trauma over the span of nine months. Though she was eventually rescued from her captors, Elizabeth still had to withstand the legal battle that was dragged out over nearly a decade. The details of Elizabeth’s abduction and captivity were so horrific and traumatizing that Elizabeth refused to give interviews or speak about the abduction for years.
In Case You’ve Been Living under a Rock…
Though the case of Elizabeth Smart was highly publicized, the case was especially big news in Salt Lake City. But, in case you managed to go without hearing the story, Elizabeth Smart was 14 years old when she was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City. During the abduction, Elizabeth’s younger sister was pretending to be asleep in the bedroom they shared. As soon as it was safe, Elizabeth’s younger sister alerted her parents to the abduction. What followed was a heart-breaking nine months for both Elizabeth and her family. Against all odds, Elizabeth Smart was found alive nine months after her abduction.
Motive and Captivity
Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee were both convicted for their roles in Elizabeth Smart’s abduction. Mitchell is said to have suffered from religious delusions, however, those claims are still somewhat controversial today. Supposedly, Mitchell believed he was a religious prophet who was destined to marry multiple virgin brides. Whether or not Mitchell genuinely believed this, or was just masquerading as delusional is still debated amongst true crime fans. What we do know is that Elizabeth endured hellish captivity. She was shackled using a metal cable and subjected to horrific sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Though Elizabeth spent most of her captivity in the wilderness, her abductors did migrate, once even to California. Wanda Barzee, Mitchell’s wife, facilitated both the abuse and the abduction.
The Court Case – The Elizabeth Smart Story
Barzee and Mitchell were tried separately, and competency issues caused the trial to drag on. In November of 2009, Wanda Barzee pled guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. In September of 2018, she was released. Mitchell was not competent to stand trial until March of 2010. In May of 2011, Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. While serving an LDS mission, Elizabeth had to return to the United States in order to testify against the perpetrators. During Brian Mitchell’s court appearances, he exhibited odd and inappropriate behavior. His defense team made grotesque accusations to the point where Elizabeth actually stormed out of the courtroom.
Where Is Elizabeth Smart Today?
In a lot of ways, Elizabeth Smart’s story does have a happy ending. As time goes on, the chances of a child being found alive after abduction decrease substantially. The aforementioned is especially true after the first 72 hours. However, the trauma that Elizabeth Smart’s kidnappers have inflicted on her may never truly go away. Today, Elizabeth is moving forward with her life and turning the trauma she’s endured into something positive. In addition to writing two books, Elizabeth has used her experience to advocate for change in legislation that could add additional protections for missing children. She’s also the founder of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation who’s mission reads as follows: “with Elizabeth at the helm, our mission is to bring hope and end the victimization and exploitation of sexual assault through education, healing, and advocacy. Our vision is to vanquish sexual assault and exploitation in all its forms.”
Paving the Way to a Better Future
We can all work together to pave the way toward a better future. As a society, we’re taking steps toward a future that’s safer for women and children by raising awareness about sexual abuse and exploitation. As a society, we’re confronting victim blaming and making advances in the field of psychology that will revolutionize the way we help victims of violence and sexual exploitation overcome their trauma. Although the societal changes we’re making are significant, we can all individually contribute to a better future. You can contribute by donating to reputable organizations and charities, or volunteering within your community. There are many factors that contribute to violence, abuse, and exploitation. There’s not just one thing that needs to change, rather there are many things that need to change. Therefore, it is important that we move toward a brighter future together, with everyone participating in the fight against violence, abuse, and exploitation.