In a week when everyone is talking about the three young women who were kidnapped and held prisoner in Cleveland, it’s inspiring to see how Elizabeth Smart — a young woman who was herself kidnapped, repeatedly raped, and held for nearly a year — has, in succeeding decades, become a brave and outspoken advocate for women in similar situations. As news begins to trickle out about how Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight escaped from their captor, Smart’s comments from last week’s event offered one possible explanation for why they may not have gotten out sooner.
Smart was in town to speak at the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s child sex trafficking forum, which took place last Wednesday. (After her ordeal, Smart became an advocate on behalf of victims of human trafficking and sexual violence.) After Smart was spotted walking down the street with her captor, nine months after her abduction, some people wondered why she hadn’t just escaped. Smart gave an eloquent answer about how her religious Mormon upbringing and abstinence-only education made her feel “so dirty and so filthy” after her captor raped her:
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”
Johns Hopkins is also home to the Moore Center for the Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse; learn more about the center and its research here.
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