Elizabeth Smart Shares Message of ‘Perseverance, Recovery, Hope’ at UC Davis

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DAVIS --

Perseverance, recovery, and hope. Three things Elizabeth Smart, who was abducted in 2002 from her home in Utah while she slept and was held captive for nine months before being rescued, knows quite a bit about.

On Wednesday, Smart provided the keynote address to California's leading victim service providers at the UC Davis Conference Center.

"Nobody knows what it's like better than I do to be raped, to be kidnapped, to be hurt," Smart told members of the media following her speech.

For Smart, her nine months in captivity were hard enough, but it was when she was finally freed that her real struggle began.

"We put so much focus on the person committing the crime," she told her audience. "And not enough on the survivor."

Law enforcement, mental and medical providers are the ones on the front lines dealing with victims of violent crime. Many were in attendance on Wednesday.

"Our focus really needs to be on how are we going to help these survivors get back into society?" Smart said. "How are we going to help them move forward? How are we helping them with even the basic needs of life?"

For many victims, it is an extremely emotional time. Quite often victims simply don't know where to turn for help.

"We want them to know we are available," said Julie Nauman of the California Victims Compensation Program. "And we want to reach them in the languages they speak and be culturally sensitive to the fear they may have about coming forward or the shame they may feel about being a victim."

During her hour-long address on Wednesday, Smart detailed her ordeal of being held captive, sexually assaulted and being told she would be killed if she didn't follow orders.

Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee were both arrested and convicted for their crimes against Smart, who was brought in on the behalf of the California Victim Compensation Program, whose goal is to reach as many undeserved victims of crime as they can. Oftentimes paying for the many different avenues of their recovery.

"I'm just really trying to give people hope because it does happen a lot more than we think, and it can be devastating," said Smart. "I want all the survivors out there to know you can reclaim your life, and you can be happy."

Smart appeared to be just that. Signing copies of her book afterward and talking about being a wife and a mother now to a new baby girl.