Abduction and rape survivor, Elizabeth Smart, was interviewed this morning about the three kidnapped victim who were heroically found alive and rescued from abduction yesterday. Smart in an ABC news interview, said,Her story of feeling worthless and dirty is sadly very common among rape victims. After going through the horrific, and often very violent, experience of being raped, many victims find themselves asking, "How could I have let this happen?" "I must have deserved this." "Who will believe that I didn't want it?" Often victims go into deep depression and some resort to suicide. Others carry that guilt and shame with them their whole lives.
"I am just so overjoyed, so happy. "It's just proof that there really are more happy endings out there. And it means we need to have constant vigilance - constantly keep our eyes open and our ears open, because miracles do happen."When asked what she thought the rescued women/girls might be feeling, Smart said,
"All I can think is joy, relief, happiness, gratitude; But at the same time, I think it's so important to respect their privacy too, and try to help give them every chance they can, to find their own way, to find their own pathway back to some sense of well being."It was over ten years ago, but many of us vividly remember in the news about Elizabeth Smart being abducted from her own bedroom one night in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was 14, and most thought she would never be found alive. Nine months later, she was spotted on a street with her abductor, 18 miles from her home. Again, someone took action, called the police, and shes was rescued.
Elizabeth Smart has told her story many times in her work as a public speaker and activist. (See video below) Smart was enslaved, raped, and degraded daily, for nine months, after being kidnapped by knife-point. She was forced to live as a "would be wife' in a polygamous household. And to keep her from leaving, she had cable bolted around her ankle.Recently she has been speaking, in part, about the shame that can be placed on victims of abductions and rape after they are rescued. Some asked/wondered why Smart didn't try to run when she was out in the public with her abductor. She shared that reason with an audience at Johns Hopkins, and when I read about it, my heart sank. Smart said while being held captive, she remembered one of her teachers from junior high school imply, if a girl didn't practice abstinence until marriage, she would be like a chewed up piece of gum. Smart relays:
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value.”Some will ask the three rescued women why they the didn't try harder to escape. Smart said, her case, she thought:
“Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.” She said she felt so dirty and filthy after being raped, and that alone, can keep someone who is a victim of human trafficking or sexual violence, from trying to escape or run for help.
Smart, now her mid-twenties, started a foundation to educate children as well as adults, bring hope, and stop victimization. She believes children need to grow being told,“you will always have value and nothing can change that.”
Society must change. Elisabeth Smart's Mormon school did teach sex education, but they taught it in that shaming abstinence-only way, that takes place all too often in many schools. This kind of teaching is not only archaic, it's dangerous. Perhaps if Smart had been told that with rape, "It's never the victims' fault, NEVER," she might have found the confidence and courage to run for safety when she had the chance. Our society still, and often, places shame/blame on victims. To give you an idea of the disgusting ignorance Elizabeth and others have to endure, there is a one-page blog and meme easily found when searching Smart's name. It starts off, "Elizabeth 'not so' Smart." --and it's received 113k Facebook likes. Where'sAnonymous. This one should be easy for them.
We are hearing more and more cases of sexual assault, abduction and rape, in social media. It's a topic that's been put on the back burner of mainstream media too often. The good news is social media movements have begun to help victims of sexual crimes. One worldwide campaign called, Unite Against Rape, was created to support rape victims/survivors and bring the discussion of rape culture to the forefront of public attention. Women and men, celebrities and people from all walks of life are submitting photos and statements about their feelings about rape. You can view many of the photos on the UniteWomen.org Facebook page.
We are grateful to those who speak out and help the public understand rape, abduction and sexual assault from their personal experience. Elizabeth Smart has been doing just that. I'm in awe of Smart and other courageous victims/survivors, who after experiencing incredible horror and pain, come forward, then continue to help others. They are not only heroes, they are treasures.
Visit/Support: The Elizabeth Smart FoundationIf You've Been Raped/Sexually Assaulted, Contact: RAINN National Rape, Abuse, & Incest Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE or their Online HotlineIf you are, or know of a victim of kidnapping, contact your local authorities, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
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