Elizabeth Smart visits UVU to encourage overcoming adversity

Photo credit: Gabi Campbell

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Ryan Dangerfield | Staff Writer | @ryandanger23
Photo Credit: Gabi Campbell


Over a thousand students and community members crowded into the Grand Ballroom at Utah Valley University on Dec. 10 to hear Elizabeth Smart speak about her kidnapping and her struggle to get back to her family.

“Everyone has problems, in fact I do not believe I have ever met someone who did not have a problem. However, I have found when we have struggles in life, we have to make a choice,” said Smart. “I feel like there are two choices, one being to give up and crawl back into bed and put the covers over your head, or say this has happened I wish it had not, but I am not going to let it stop me…from being who I want to be.”

When she fourteen years old, was just happy to not be in the spotlight, was happy being a nobody, and was excited to start high school.

Photo credit: Gabi Campbell
Photo credit: Gabi Campbell

One night she crawled into bed next to her younger sister and went to sleep. In the middle of the night she heard a voice unlike any voice she had ever heard before. It was Brian David Mitchell’s voice, and she thought this must be part of her dream.

“I have a knife at your neck, do not make a sound, get up and come with me,” said Mitchell, as she laid there she could feel the knife lying against her neck, and she could feel someone’s hand on her arm trying to pull her out of bed.

Once leaving the house, Mitchell had Smart run up the mountain alongside him. After they had been running awhile Smart turned to the man, and said “If you are just going to rape and murder me would you please do it here.”


She wanted her family to know what had happened to her, wanted them to know she had not ran away, and she had not rebelled.

The man turned to her smiled and said “I am not going to rape and murder you yet.”

“‘If you get caught you will spend the rest of your life in prison, I promise if you just let me go I promise my family will not press any charges, and it will as if this never even happened, just please let me go,’” Smart had said.

The man looked at her again, smiled , and said “I know exactly what I am doing, the only difference is I am not going to get caught.”

Recently, UVUSA, the UVU student government, has been attempting to spread sexual assault awareness across the university campus  with Sexual Assault Awareness week because of the “It’s on Us” campaign, which began with President Barack Obama.

“I will never ever forget how I felt after being raped, and knowing the statistics I am willing to bet I am not the only person in this room who has felt complete and utter self-worthlessness after being raped,” recounted Smart. “I did not feel like anyone could ever make me feel happy ever again.”

Nine months later, Smart was still being held captive.They had made their way to California. During the last nine months, Smart had seen Mitchell and his friend, Wanda Ileen Barzee, commit almost every crime possible, claiming they had the right to because of religion, and they were talking about leaving California to the travel to the Eastern United States.

Smart thought of a plan to convince Mitchell they should return to Utah. The plan was to pretend as if she had a vision from God saying they should return to Utah, and then asked Mitchell to pray to God asking whether they should return to Utah. Mitchell did pray to God and he became convinced they should. As soon as they returned to Utah, Mitchell and Barzee were caught quickly by the police, and Smart was put in handcuffs, and brought her to a tiny room in the basement of the police station with no windows, just a sofa, and the police left the room after removing the handcuffs.

“Oh my goodness, I am going to prison,” recounted Smart. “Jail is not so bad, they have beds, showers, food not dug out of a garbage can, they have jumpsuits, which are washed more than every nine months. Prison does not sound so bad actually. In fact it actually sounds like a big step up from where I have been the last nine months.”

Smart later realized once her father came in the room, everything was going to be alright, and she was going home to her family.


1 thought on “Elizabeth Smart visits UVU to encourage overcoming adversity

  1. I am a poet and writer who is very moved by Elizabeth Smart’s story, along with millions. The issue of sex abuse goes beyond every parameter set to encompass it because it touches upon both the personal and the social. I admire and value the courage it takes for this woman to not only share her story, but to help so many others in doing so. To call Elizabeth Smart brilliant is quite an understatement, since so many of us whould have crumbled faced with the same horrible challenge. I hope she keeps on being so active in and helpful to our nation and world and wish her many blessings and continued healing.

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