Elizabeth Smart’s Visit – “You Have an Opportunity to Make a Difference”

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by Melinda Huish, Volunteer, Interfaith Women’s Conference Co-Chair

“You can’t change the past.  You can fight it, or you can accept that you will never go back to being that wallflower.  You have an opportunity to make a difference, to take a stand.”

These were the words of Elizabeth Smart, who spoke on Friday, March 8th at the Rialto Theater to an audience of over 500.  The event was part of the 2019 Interfaith Women’s Conference weekend, presented by Associated Ministries of Tacoma/Pierce County.

Elizabeth shared details of her harrowing kidnapping at age 14 by religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee.  Mitchell entered the Smart family home and kidnapped Elizabeth at knifepoint, telling her, “Come with me, or I will hurt your family.”

Held captive for 9 months, Elizabeth was rescued just a few miles from her home.  She had endured horrific living conditions and abuse.  She was malnourished and nearly hopeless.   After being rescued by local police, she was immediately reunited with her parents and siblings. She then took time to find her “new normal” and heal from her devastating experience.

Elizabeth spoke about who she is now, encouraging the audience that though “horrible things happen to people, it is possible to move forward and have a happy, fulfilling life.”    She is now a wife, a mother and an advocate for those who have been victimized.

Sharing her story helps others to know that it possible to heal and to have hope.  Elizabeth’s recent book, “Where There’s Hope,” shares the journey of individuals who have faced terrible circumstances but have chosen to accept what has been done, deal with anger and hurt, and heal.  “It’s loving yourself,” she says, “enough to let go of your pain and move forward.”

This message of hope resonates with many who have faced similar circumstances.  Elizabeth encouraged others to remember the words of Diane Von Furstenburg, who told her, “There are two types of survivors.  Those who didn’t die – and those who lived.”

Elizabeth was able to create good from her horrific experience.  You can learn more about the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, “bringing hope and ending victimization through prevention, recovery and advocacy.”

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