SALT LAKE CITY — Elizabeth Smart spoke about the power of both physical and psychological chains as she promised a brighter future for 13 siblings rescued from a California home this week after allegedly being held hostage for years by their parents.
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Smart, who was held captive for months as a teenager after being kidnapped from her Salt Lake home, promised the siblings, ages 2 to 29, that they can "go on to have wonderful lives."
"I would want them to know that they survived, they did it, and that life is not as dark and as terrible as it has been probably for their entire life" Smart said. "There is happiness in the future and they can go on to have wonderful lives. This does not have to be the rest of their lives, that they're the ones who decide."
Smart said she believes the siblings have likely been "abused and manipulated and tortured" throughout their lives, and urged others not to question why they made no apparent effort to flee.
"Your brain does not think that way," Smart said. "You go into a survival mode where you do whatever it takes to survive."
Smart, who has become an advocate for children's rights, said she knows from experience the powerful hold of physical and psychological chains.
"Speaking as one who has been physically chained up and as one who has also been held by chains of manipulation and threats, I will tell you every day of the week that the chains of manipulation and threats are so much stronger than actual physical chains," Smart said.
David Allen Turpin and his wife, Louise Anna Turpin, were arrested Sunday in Perris, California, after police said they found their malnourished children imprisoned in their home.
Deputies said some siblings were shackled to furniture in the foul-smelling home in suburban Riverside County, and they were so malnourished that the older ones still looked like children.
The couple was arrested after a 17-year-old daughter — who looked closer to age 10 — jumped out of a window and called 911.2 comments on this story
The home was listed as the Sandcastle Day School, where David Turpin served as principal for the couple's six younger children.
No state agency regulates or oversees private schools in California, but the buildings are subject to an annual inspection by the state or local fire marshal. Records requests to Perris City officials Wednesday turned up no evidence any inspections had ever been done.
The Turpins were jailed on $9 million bail each. Charges that may include torture and child endangerment could come Wednesday, authorities said, while a court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.
Contributing: Associated Press