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Elizabeth Smart on Survivorship, Hope, and Faith: The 26th Annual Barbara Boggs Sigmund Honoree

Almost 20 years after her abduction and a decade-long career in national advocacy work, Elizabeth Smart’s greatest achievement is simply surviving. “There are many things that I’m proud to be a part of – like AMBER Alerts and other safety legislation being passed,” Smart said during the virtual BBS event held via zoom on May 12th. “But I’m most proud of who I’ve been able to become in my adult life.”

 

Elizabeth Smart is the 2022 recipient of the 26th Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award. In 2002, Smart was abducted from her home at the age of 14. For the next nine months, her captors controlled her by threatening to kill her and her family if she tried to escape. Since her rescue, Elizabeth has become an advocate for change related to child abduction, recovery programs, and national legislation. She is the founder of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, an organization out of Salt Lake City seeking to end the victimization of sexual assault and abuse through prevention, recovery, and advocacy.

 

The virtual event began with an introduction by CEO & President Nathalie Nelson who recognized the commitment Barbara Boggs Sigmund and her family have made to the Womanspace mission since the organization’s inception. Elizabeth Smart then gave a powerful retelling of her kidnapping followed by a Q&A led by Immediate Past Board President Rev. Matt Rhodes.

Rhodes and Smart discussed how faith can guide survivors through their healing journey: “I grew up very faith-based and it made a huge impact on my survival when I was kidnapped. Knowing there was an all-powerful God on my side was a comfort. As an adult, faith is still a big part of my life. Whatever brings you a greater peace is where you should be,” Smart said.

The conversation then led to Smart deciding to write her published book My Story. “For years I didn’t speak about my story. I had zero desire to ever write or speak about it,” recalled Smart. “When [the trial] finally happened, I was twenty-three and I had to spend multiple days on the witness stand. The next day I went to the grocery store with my mom and I remember looking at the magazine rack and seeing my face on every magazine. I glanced through one thinking ‘this is a list of facts and not my story’. If these facts are out there, I might as well give it context and meaning in my own words.”

 

Smart also addressed the #MeToo movement and the need for further education on the impacts of sexual harassment: “Sexual abuse is nothing new – it’s always been here. We have a gaping chasm in this country that we’ve been sweeping under the rug for years. These conversations can be really uncomfortable and triggering – but they are also so important and necessary to have.”

 

Finally, Rhodes and Smart wrapped up the Q&A praising advocates, volunteers, and professionals who support survivors. “I am so grateful for organizations like Womanspace. I have the deepest appreciation for every individual who takes on work in the field of domestic and sexual violence prevention.”

 

The Womanspace team thanks Elizabeth Smart for sharing her story with our community. Her heartfelt words of wisdom are making a difference in the lives of survivors. A massive thank you to our volunteers and donors who dedicate their resources to help victims of abuse in Mercer County. This night would not have been possible without our sponsors, volunteers, and staff members. We look forward to seeing everyone in person at next year’s Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award Event.

 

ABOUT WOMANSPACE

Founded in 1977, Womanspace is a leading non-profit organization serving the greater Mercer County area and the state of New Jersey by providing a comprehensive array of emergency and follow-up services to individuals and families impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault. Womanspace is dedicated to improving the quality of life for domestic and sexual violence victims, survivors and their families. Bilingual services and programs include 24/7 crisis intervention, safe, short-term emergency shelter, short and long-term transitional housing, individual counseling and therapeutic support groups for adults and children, court advocacy and the 24/7 crisis hotline (609) 394-9000. Womanspace also operates the 24/7 New Jersey Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline 800-572-SAFE. To learn more about Womanspace please visit www.womanspace.org.

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