Elizabeth Smart: An Inspiring Story of Resilience

Elizabeth Smart, described as one who plays the harp like an angel and rides a horse like a cowboy, was only fourteen years of age when she was kidnapped at knifepoint from her home. During her nine-month captivity, her abductor brutally raped her every day, drugged her, and threatened to kill all of her family if she tried to escape. Today she is happily married and an advocate for child victims. What kept her sane? How did she emerge intact?

After being raped the first time, she awoke feeling shattered, ashamed, and worthless. She wondered if anyone would love her again. Then her resilience kicked in.

She remembered the unwavering love and acceptance of her family, that they would always accept her. She had cultivated an unshakable faith, and knew that God would be with her throughout her ordeal. She determined on that first day that she would do whatever it took to survive, even if that meant simply outliving her captors. Although she was chained, she took hope from the stump of a tree, from the side of which was growing a small sapling. She knew that she, too, would keep going.

She reminded herself frequently of all she was thankful for: memories of her family, a tent that kept the sun off her, the kindness of strangers who searched for her or gave her water as she traveled in disguise with her captors.

Calmly and cleverly, she eventually outwitted her manipulative captor, leading to her safe return to family, forgiving her captors, and taking up her dreams again. Although the details of her ordeal are forever burned in her mind, she genuinely feels that the good in her life outweighs the bad.

These are just a few of the strengths that this young girl showed.

Her inspiring story is told in her book, My Story.

Smart, E., and C. Stewart (2013). My Story. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.