Elizabeth Smart speaks out at Fort Lee about abuse

"Terrible experiences" should not "define us"

Over 300 women attended an event where Elizabeth Smart talked about overcoming adversity.

Brian David Mitchell family photo used as evidence in the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping case. Image via Salt Lake City County Court.

Smart was in Virginia to address how she has been able to rebuild her life since her abduction and the events surrounding the kidnapping.

“I think so many people are able to rise above their challenges and they’re able to flip them and turn them into wonderful things and make the most out of it,” Smart said.

Since being abducted by Brian David Mitchell, Smart has been an outspoken advocate for victims of abuse.  She has started the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, where she says:

Too many families experience the nightmare of having a child go missing. I know what it is like to be that child. I know what it is like to think that one false move may lead to not only your own death but the death of family members as well. Nobody can ever blame a child for their actions when they are being threatened, bullied, forced, or coerced into doing something unthinkable. That is why the “Elizabeth Smart Foundation” was created, because what if we could prevent future crimes against children? Wouldn’t it be worth it to do everything to bring home that one child?

She also joined ABC news as a correspondent for such programs as Good Morning America and Nightline.

At Wednesday’s event, she discussed the recent Penn State , the importance of  forgiveness, and the need to bring stories of abuse out of the shadows.

“It’s absolutely heart breaking, every time you hear about a case of abuse going on, a child being abused, but if anything good can come from the Penn State Scandal, it’s that we are talking about it now, and we are raising awareness” she said.

“In my mind it makes me feel like connections are made and it helps other people maybe continue on when a time they didn’t think they could,” Smart said.

Earlier this year, the 23-year old confronted her captor at trial. Mitchell was eventually convicted of federal kidnapping and unlawful transportation. Smart told the group of women on Wednesday, “The best punishment I could ever give him was to be happy and to live my life and to take my life back, to move forward with my goals and my dreams and my wishes.”

“We all have terrible experiences and it’s so easy to let those experiences define us, but we only have one life and we shouldn’t let them define us,” she said.