It's been a little over five years since Elizabeth Smart was found safe after being abducted for nine months.
In her grandmother's living room Monday evening, she gave a harp recital. The music major just finished her sophomore year at Brigham Young University and talked about being happy that finals were over as she tuned her harp.
For Smart, her life today is about schooling, her job as a bank clerk, practicing the harp and finding free time to do whatever else she can squeeze into her schedule. One of the biggest conflicts in her life now is finding time to conduct nine more recitals as required by her major.
In other words, Smart is like almost every college-aged woman in Utah. She is a survivor and shows no sign of being scarred from her long abduction.
Now, Smart hopes she can help other kidnap victims and let them know that even though they may have experienced something horrible, it doesn't mean they can't resume a normal life once they return.
The U.S. Department of Justice will unveil a new pamphlet Wednesday during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., aimed at helping victims of abduction. The pamphlet is being called a survivor's guide for kidnap victims, and was written with help from a group of five kidnap victims, including Smart. Elizabeth and her father, Ed, will be in Washington for the ceremony.
Monday, Smart gave a rare press conference to local reporters to talk about the new pamphlet and to update reporters on how she has been doing since her June 2002 kidnapping.
"I think I'm doing great," she said.
Smart said the only time she makes public appearances or lends her name to something is when she believes it will help others. When the DOJ called her and explained the survivor's pamphlet, Smart said she thought about it for a couple of days.
"I only do things when I feel they're important. I think (the pamphlet) is important," she said.
None of the other survivors who contributed to the pamphlet, three other girls and a boy ranging from ages 8 to late teens, were in as a high-profile incidents as Smart. The group met twice over the past several months, in Chicago and San Diego, and then e-mailed ideas back and forth.
Each victim's story was different and each dealt with the the trauma they suffered in their own ways, Smart said. For Smart, it was a strong support network of family and friends that pulled her through.
"It's important to have good relations with family ... someone you can trust," she said. "I have a very incredible family. My family was always there for me."
Returning from home was like waking up from a bad nightmare, Smart said. But just like having a nightmare, once it's over, you get out of bed and move on.
Smart gives advice in different parts throughout the book, and each survivor has a small section dedicated to their specific incident. For Smart, she said she probably talked less about her experience than the others.
"I don't think it's worth spending time in the past," she said. "It's not something I think about. If I feel like I want to (retell my story to someone), I will. But I don't have to. I don't talk about it much (in the book), I really don't care to."
Although Smart wants to focus on the present and the future rather than relive the past, that doesn't mean she isn't fully aware of what's been happening with the court cases of her alleged abductors
"I like to know what's going on," she said.
The cases against Brian David Mitchell and his estranged wife and co-defendant, Wanda Barzee, both charged with kidnapping Smart, have been bogged in marathon court hearings and legal battles over the competencies of the duo. Currently, Barzee's case is in limbo as attorneys wait to find out if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear her case to decide if the standard set in Sell vs. the United States, which established guidelines for involuntary medication, were used correctly. A decision on whether Mitchell also meets that same standard and can be forcibly medicated was also outstanding Monday.
Whether they stay in a mental institution, jail or prison doesn't matter to Smart, just as long as they stay in a place where they can't victimize anyone else.
"I am very glad they are not on the street," she said. "I never want them getting out, that's for sure."70 comments on this story
Ed Smart said amazingly, his daughter went back to being her normal self almost immediately. Shortly after she returned home, Elizabeth Smart said she hiked up to the camp where she was held hostage by Mitchell and Barzee for several weeks right after her abduction.
"I felt great. I felt triumphant," said Elizabeth Smart who has hiked up to that location several times since. "It's a good hike anyways."
Elizabeth Smart said it was interesting to hear the stories from the other survivors. Another piece of advice that came out of the group's meetings was that it was OK for a person to feel guilt."It's OK to feel whatever you feel when you come back," she said. "It's OK to feel angry or guilty. I hope people realize although bad things do happen, there are good people."