I was a young married woman in 2002 when Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her Utah home at just fourteen years old, and like the rest of the country, I was stunned when she was found alive nine months later. It would be years before Elizabeth would speak publicly about her time of captivity, where she was raped daily by her captor, and starved and tortured by him and his wife, but once Elizabeth Smart became an adult, she wrote her story in a book and became a tireless advocate for sexual assault survivors. Now thirty years old, it amazes me how she emerged from the darkness of abuse and has helped many others do the same.
Along the way, Elizabeth also found love and family. She met her Scottish husband Matthew Gilmour, while on a Mormon mission in France, and they married in 2012. She calls Gilmour her “best friend” and “everything I could ever want in a spouse.” They have a three-year-old daughter, Chloe, and a one-year-old son, James, and just yesterday on Instagram, Smart announced that she is expecting the couple’s third child!
I have heard Elizabeth Smart speak in interviews a few times about the advice her mother gave her after she was rescued from captivity, that she says has enabled her to live such a normal, happy life despite the scars of her traumatic abuse, and it is something that really sticks with me. Smart recounts,
“What she said was … ‘Elizabeth, what these people have done to you is terrible, and there aren’t words strong enough to describe how wicked and evil they are. They’ve stolen nine months of your life from you that you will never get back. But the best punishment you could ever give them is to be happy, is to live your life, is to move forward and do all of the things that you want to do. Because by feeling sorry for yourself and holding onto the past and reliving it over and over and over again, that’s only allowing them to steal more of your life away from you and they don’t deserve that. They don’t deserve another single second more of your life. So you be happy and you move forward.”
Though Smart has definitely done just that, moved forward and found happiness, I also have wondered how her ordeal has affected her own mothering. I’m sure at the moment she became a mom, she understood the pain her parents went through when she was kidnapped. I’m sure that as she gazed into newborn Chloe’s eyes, she must also have been struck with fear about any kind of abuse happening to her own child.
There is nothing so important in recovery as support. It’s finding the people who love you, care about you, and want the very best for you no matter what. Each of us will meet so many people in life, many of them will be kind, lovely people but at the end of the day you want to surround yourself with the ones who will stick by you. And you know you can lean on them, and they on you in return because we all experience pain in this life and we all deserve to be loved. For me these are the people that I care about most ❤️❤️❤️❤️ I am one of the lucky ones to have a kind and loving biological family. However not every family is made up of people who have similar DNA. Families can include friends, teachers, counselors, therapists, coworkers, basically anyone who you love, trust, and they have your back. #findyourfamily #whoreallycounts #support #supportiseverything #nevergiveup #miracleshappen #happiness #joy #love #safety #movingforward
While reading about her exciting new baby news, I uncovered a quote from Smart from a November 2017 interview where she described how, even at a very young age, she was preparing Chloe to be alert to dangerous situations and teaching her to come to her parents early and often.
“I always tell her, ‘No one has the right to hurt you. No one has the right to scare you or make you feel afraid. And if anyone hurts you, you tell Mama,'” she said. “If I say it enough, and I’m there, she can tell me and she knows I have her corner. She knows she can come to me. I will fight for her and I will believe her.”
Years ago, Smart wrote a book, My Story (which is a fantastic if heartbreaking read, and I highly recommend it), and at the time she said something to the effect of, “I’m only going to do this once.” But now, she says, you should “never say never,” because she has written a second book, specifically to help survivors of abuse discover that they can live a life of resilience and empowerment. Her new book, Where There’s Hope, is a response to the many, many questions she receives at speaking engagements from fellow survivors. They want to know “How?” — how she has forgiven her captors, how she lives a life without bitterness and anger, and how she has not let the abuse define her.
I continue to be inspired by this wife, mom, and survivor, and I am also kind of awed by how she handles a “celebrity” that she would not have if she hadn’t also suffered a great tragedy. The way she has used her ordeal for good, to tirelessly advocate for survivors and educate others about abuse, as well as her work against human trafficking, truly leave me impressed and in awe. Not to mention, she balances this work with the all-important work of being a wife and mother. I know that the three children she is mother to, and any more she brings into this world will surely go on to do great things, too.