Photo by Bill Miles
On the night 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her bedroom and raped on dirty bedding not far from her Federal Heights home, she felt so dirty and worthless that she didn't think she was worth rescuing.
But 12 years later, she is clearly not the shattered crystal vase she describes in her book My Story.
While her tormentors are in jail—Brian David Mitchell in federal prison for life and Wanda Barzee sentenced to 15 years—Smart has become an advocate who jets around the country to speak out on child abuse, is happily married to a man she met on her Mormon mission in Paris and is looking forward to being a mom.
"I don't think I'm broken now," she says with a laugh. "I'm very happy. I'm very fulfilled and content with my life."
She's at her Park City home, where she can step out to hike, ski or camp. And an ordinary life is what the now 26-year-old craves, never mind her crisscrossing the country to speak at events like a synagogue fundraiser in Tampa and human trafficking conference at Johns Hopkins University, or to be interviewed by media superstars.
"I love to be at home. I grocery shop and do laundry and tidy and take my dogs out," Smart says.
In her book, published last fall, Smart candidly shares the terrible details of her nine-month captivity, including daily rapes, being treated like a slave and her eventual manipulation of Mitchell to get him to return from San Diego to Utah, where she was rescued. She speaks out to help the other one in four girls and one in six boys who are sexually abused.
In public appearances, Smart is chicly dressed, photographed in rose-colored pants topped by a black and white sweater or an emerald green dress and pearls, taking inspiration for her classic style from Doris Day and Audrey Hepburn. Elle magazine called her its "favorite person on the planet."
Smart will admit to liking to shop "maybe a little too much. There's nothing quite like retail therapy," she says wryly.
She refuses to hide her beauty as some assault survivors do, "I always want to present myself nicely." Smart has become a woman who has chosen to be happy-grateful even.
Smart's commitment to life is inspiring to Erin Runnion, director of The Joyful Child Foundation, dedicated to preventing sexual child abuse. "Because she genuinely understands that no one has the right to hurt her and that no part of what happened to her is her fault, she is better equipped to let it go and move forward," Runnion says.
"Bad things do happen," Smart says, ''but that doesn't need to stop us from being who we want to be."