Courtesy Rabbi Avremi Zippel
Rabbi Avremi Zippel meets with Elizabeth Smart in Park City, Utah in January 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Rabbi Avrohom (“Avremi”) Zippel testified in a preliminary hearing Tuesday morning that his former nanny sexually abused him for 10 years, drawing support from others who have faced significant trauma in their lives.

Rabbi Zippel told the Deseret News in an exclusive interview that Elizabeth Smart’s story deeply inspired him.

He said he met Smart — who was abducted from her home in 2002 before she was found nine months later, becoming an advocate for victims of sexual assault and violence — on multiple occasions and Smart advised him on his case.

Smart, who appeared at the hearing on Tuesday with her father, Ed Smart, told the Deseret News she was moved by Rabbi Zippel’s story.

“I think he's a hero for speaking out,” she said. “I mean the amount of courage it takes to stand up there — I know, I've done it — the amount of courage it takes to stand up in that box and talk about what happened openly. It's terrifying. So he's a hero.”

Smart said she appeared at the hearing to support Rabbi Zippel.

“There are so many victims who never speak up,” she said. “I think we've come to kind of a time where it is beginning to get a little bit easier to get them to start speaking.”

Smart said there’s a common perception that people only think of women as victims and rarely consider men.

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“When you think of victims, usually it's women,” she said. “It's not acceptable to be a man and to speak out because then it makes you look like you're not as tough or you're not as macho or, you know, maybe there's something wrong with you, like you should have been enjoying it. Some sick and crazy idea (that) it's unacceptable for a man to speak out about what happened.”

And now, she said, Rabbi Zippel can become a voice for the voiceless.

"He can become a voice for so many victims who are too scared to speak out,” she added. “But the truth is that there's still a lot of men who have been sexually abused and we don't care about their stories. So I definitely wanted to come today to support him.”