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Famed kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart has revealed that she “was embarrassed and ashamed” to tell her parents about being raped during her ordeal in 2002 when she was 14.
“The truth is I never sat them all down and had a ‘tell-all’ experience with them,” the 33-year-old wrote on Instagram Sunday of Ed and Lois Smart. “Honestly when I got home I didn’t want anyone to know what had happened I was embarrassed and ashamed.”
Smart continued: “I was brought to an advocacy center where I had to disclose much of what happened to two professionals and they in turn relayed much of what happened to my parents.
“But I don’t think my parents ever heard in detail what happened from my own lips until my court appearance almost a decade later,” she wrote.
Smart — whose experience prompted her to launch Smart Defense, a program for teaching women the skills to defend themselves – stressed that she didn’t want anyone to compare their experiences to hers.
“We are all different and unique and we can never accurately compare our experiences to someone else’s,” she wrote.
“I also want to point out my case was highly publicized, everyone already knew crimes were committed against me. So it didn’t take me coming forward and disclosing the extent of my abuse to multiple people before my captors were taken into custody. Nor did I have people doubt me.”
In her 2013 book “My Story,” Smart recounted how she was snatched from her bedroom in Salt Lake City in the dead of night and forced to the ground at knifepoint before being held for nine grueling months.
She described that she was so terrified of the street preacher who kidnapped her that when police rescued her in a Salt Lake City suburb in March 2003, she only reluctantly identified herself.
Smart wrote that she was treated as a sex object by Brian David Mitchell and as a slave by his wife, Wanda Barzee, who denied her food and water for days at a time.
Mitchell, who had been recognized from an episode of “America’s Most Wanted,” is serving two life terms after he was sentenced in 2011.
Barzee was released from prison in 2018 despite pleas from Smart that she be kept behind bars, Fox News reported.
Smart has since gotten married, become a mother to three children, and is an advocate for kidnapped children and sexual assault victims, according to the news outlet.
On Monday, she shared in another Instagram post why she decided to publicly reveal the details of the abuse after initially wanting to avoid it.
“I’ve noticed a lot of comments about dealing with the shame and embarrassment that I felt after I was rescued and didn’t want to tell anyone the details about what happened,” she wrote.
“For years if a discussion or a situation occurred that would seem a natural opener to talking about what happened I generally side stepped it. In my mind what had happened was something that I hated and never wanted to acknowledge so I just avoided thinking/talking about it,” Smart added.
“But I remember one day my dad came to me and started discussing the charges Brian Mitchell was going to be charged with, and I felt anger, because of all the charges he was faced with none of them included the worst things he did to me. It was ultimately in that moment that I stopped caring and worrying about the shame and embarrassment that I felt.”
Smart added that discussing the trauma openly was empowering.
“If someone judged me for what happened, in my mind I came to the conclusion that they did not matter and clearly were not worth my time,” she wrote.
“Since then I became more and more involved in advocacy and as I went out I realized I was not alone in being a victim of rape and sexual abuse. This more than anything made me want to do more, change the culture, speak and share my story if it helped others.”
She added: “In my eyes the first step towards changing the culture of how we treat victims and survivors is to start by believing them! It is for that reason @elizabethsmartfoundation started our #webelieveyou campaign.”
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