In her new memoir, “My Story,” Elizabeth Smart reveals new, heartbreaking details about her time as the captive of street preacher Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee.
Mitchell snatched Smart from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 and remained under his control for nine long months before she was eventually spotted and rescued by police.
Smart also sat down with CNN’s Anderson Cooper for “Anderson Cooper 360” to further describe her ordeal. She told Cooper her reasoning for sharing these intimate details was to help the survivors and victims of similar ordeals -- saying she didn’t hold back on the gory details because, “I don’t think I’m doing any favors by sugarcoating it.”
Here are some highlights from her interview and her new book. The second part of her interview with Cooper airs Tuesday night on CNN.
Smart writes that she was asleep on the night of her kidnapping when she felt a beard against her face.
She told Cooper: "He said 'I have a knife at your neck, don't make a sound, get up and come with me.' And then I remember getting up and going with him, and then on the way through my house he bent over to my ear again and said 'If you make any sound, if you do anything that causes any attention or causes someone to come, I not only will kill you, but I will kill anyone who tries to stop me…' I felt like that was the safest place in the world for me, so waking up in the middle of the night in my own bedroom having this strange man standing over me, someone I didn't recognize, not only that but having a knife being held to my throat, I was terrified."
Life Under Mitchell’s Control
Smart writes that Mitchell used sex as a tool to control her, raping her “every day, sometimes multiple times a day.”
On her second day with Mitchell, where she was kept at a camp just five miles from her parents’ home, Smart writes that he gave her an “anatomy lesson,” using a naked Barzee as a learning tool. After the demonstration, he raped her.
Smart told Cooper she was bored to death by Mitchell’s nonstop talking about himself and writes that Mitchell gave her alcohol but denied her food and water for days at a time.
“My life pretty much consisted of three things. Getting raped, being forced to drink alcohol, and sitting on a bucket in a clearing in the trees,” she writes.
She told Cooper: "Every time I thought 'OK, this is rock bottom,' I mean, my pajamas have been taken away from me and I'm being forced to wear this nasty robe, the next thing I knew they'd say, 'We're going to have you go naked now,' or I had been forced to drink alcohol, which I had never done before. I would throw up and I would pass out and when I'd wake up I'd find that my face and my hair was just crusted to the ground in vomit. I mean, just every time I thought it couldn't get worse, something always happened."
Her fears about what her parents would think
The morning of her kidnapping, as she was forced to hike for hours away from her home, Smart told Cooper she asked her kidnapper to rape and kill her then and there.
"In my mind, I wanted my parents to know what had happened to me," she said. "I wanted them to know that I hadn't run away, that this wasn't my choosing, I wasn't upset with them. I wanted them to know what had happened to me."
Smart also wrote that after she was raped she worried her family wouldn’t want her back because in her family and faith “a great deal of emphasis is placed on sexual purity.”
Why she didn't try to escape
The book details several near-rescues, including an incident where a detective questioned Mitchell at a library. Smart wrote that during the encounter, Barzee clamped onto her thigh. She didn’t speak up -- remembering the couple’s repeated threats to kill her family.
She even hesitated to confirm her identity when she was ultimately found and confronted by police. She writes that she was too afraid to speak because of Mitchell’s threats. She only admitted who she was when the officer said, “Are you Elizabeth Smart? Because if you are, your family has missed you so much since you were gone! They want you back. They love you. They want you to come home.”
She also told Cooper that escape wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
She said: "You can never judge a child or a victim of any crime on what they should have done, because you weren't there and you don't know and you have no right just to sit in your armchair at home and say 'Well, why didn't you escape? Why didn't you do this?' I mean, they just don't know. That's wrong. And I was 14. I was a little girl. And I had seen this man successfully kidnap me, he successfully chained me up, he successfully raped me, he successfully did all of these things. What was to say that he wouldn't kill me when he'd make those threats to me? What was to say that he wouldn't kill my family?"
Facing Mitchell during his trial
Smart writes that when Mitchell pretended to collapse in court and was hauled away by paramedics, he locked eyes with her and gave her an “evil grin.”
"I returned his cold stare, never looking away."
How she's doing now
Smart says she’s emerged from the ordeal without ongoing psychological problems. But she says people don’t believe she’s recovered.
“I think a few people might look at me and almost not believe what I say,” Smart wrote.
She attributes much of her recovery to her faith, writing she “never felt closer to God than I did throughout my nightmare with Mitchell.”
She told Cooper her focus now is to help other victims.
"I want to reach out to those survivors and those victims. I want them to know that these things do happen, but that doesn't mean that we have to be defined by it for the rest of your life. You can move forward and you can be happy."