Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her Utah bedroom in 2002 as a teenager by a self-styled religious prophet and held for nine months, details her captivity in a memoir, “My Story,” published on Monday.
Smart, 25, describes in the book her persistent fear during the ordeal and how she persuaded her captors, religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell and his wife, to travel from California back to Utah, which eventually led to her rescue.
“All I could think of was if I wasn’t found here, there’s no way I’m going to be found anywhere else,” Smart told NBC’s “Today” show on Monday. “I have to get back to Salt Lake.”
Smart retells how Mitchell, now 59, kidnapped her from her Salt Lake City bedroom and took her to a nearby mountain encampment. He would rape her every day for the next nine months, Smart writes.
Mitchell took Smart and his wife, Wanda Barzee, to Southern California three months after kidnapping the teenager.
Smart persuaded Mitchell to hitchhike with her and Barzee back to Utah from California after Mitchell had suggested taking Smart to the East Coast. Smart said she believed she would be recognized only in Utah.
Smart, who married last year and works as an advocate to prevent crimes against children, said she still hangs onto words her mother spoke days after she was rescued when a passerby spotted Mitchell walking down a street with her and Barzee in Sandy, Utah, and notified police.
“The best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy, to move forward with your life and to do what you want to do,” Smart said. “By feeling sorry for yourself and by holding on to what’s happened to you that’s only allowing him to steal more of your life away from you, and he doesn’t deserve another second.”
Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison following a six-week trial in 2010 in which Smart testified about her abduction and captivity. Barzee was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Smart, a devout Mormon, also details in the book how playing the harp and horseback-riding have helped her in her recovery.
“Healing takes a lot of different forms and it’s different for everybody and there’s not a wrong way and there’s not a right way,” she said.
“My Story” is published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of privately held Macmillan.