Elizabeth Smart's grace, poise and self-confidence on the witness stand this week was astounding. It not only spoke to her ability to overcome unspeakable trauma through the power of faith, but it was a powerful, level-headed and righteously indignant condemnation of her captor, Brian David Mitchell.
Smart clearly has a deep and abiding faith in God and in goodness, as well as a love for her family. By the end of her three days on the witness stand this week, these stood in stark contrast to the hypocrisy of Mitchell's outbursts of religious singing through years of court hearings, and to his alleged crimes committed against her in the name of God. Today she is no shrinking or frightened victim. She is a confident young adult who has begun to heal and reclaim her sense of worth; she has a clear understanding of right and wrong and of where guilt should lie.
It was important for the public to see this. Regardless how the trial proceeds, or the outcome upon which the jury decides, Smart has brought a sense of closure to this sordid chapter in Utah history, and to concerns some may have had about her reluctance to speak out when confronted by police or other members of the public while in captivity. The justice system will hand out punishments. But Smart has begun to move on, and so should everyone else.
The graphic details of her nine-month ordeal were difficult to hear. They were, however, important to make public. The crimes against Smart also were crimes against society. It is the government that will punish her captor, and the people of a free society need to know what happened in order to assure themselves that justice is being done.
They also need to understand the grave dangers that confront children who fall into the hands of people with evil intentions. Many of them never survive to sit on a witness stand. In a symbolic way, Smart's calm, direct and confident recitation of the facts was on their behalf, too. She gave voice to the many voiceless children who have suffered atrocities with no one to comfort their tears.
Eight years ago, thousands of Utahns spread fliers and notices, hiked through rugged terrain, prayed and hoped for Smart's safe return. Despite all that happened to her during those months, Smart's three days on the witness stand let those people know their prayers were answered. She is, indeed, safe.