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Kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart was in Wichita on Friday to speak to a conference sponsored by the Kansas U.S. Attorney's office on human trafficking. She told the story of her 2002 kidnapping and the 9-month ordeal that followed, and she says she is grateful for the opportunities she has now to be a voice for victims.
Smart was kidnapped from her home in Salt Lake City at age 14. She was abducted in June, 2002 and taken into a mountain region where she became a "servant" to a man and woman who planned to kidnap other young girls. Smart said the couple used religion to justify everything they did, and they told her she was from a "wicked and evil world."
Smart said early in her ordeal, she remembered her mother saying that "God will always love you and He will never turn his back on you, and you will always be my daughter and I will always love you." Smart said what was happening to her would not change that, and she had found something to live for, and somehow she would survive.
Smart said 2 people called police when they thought they saw her and her two captors walking along a street in Sandy, Utah in March, 2003, and that led to her rescue by police. She says her mother told her that the best punishment she could give her captors is to be happy and live her life. Smart says there have been ups and downs in her life, but the bad things don't need to define who we are.
Smart, who is now 24, told the audience that communities have the opportunity to make a difference, and communities need to work on prevention, to provide education and programs to protect the safety of children. She said for every square mile in the United States, there is a sexual predator, and that creates staggering odds.
Smart said the lesson of her experience is to never give up hope, because miracles do happen.
(click on the audio player below to hear comments from Elizabeth Smart during a press conference that followed her address)