Former kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, whose nine-month ordeal captured the country’s attention in 2002 and early 2003, spared little detail in an interview with CNN host Anderson Cooper on Tuesday, describing not only her capture, but the day-to-day conditions she lived in.
“My days consisted of being hungry, of being bored to death because he talked nonstop always about himself,” Smart told Cooper. “I mean, talk about self-absorbed. And then my days consisted of being raped. I mean, not just once, multiple times a day.”
Smart, now 25 years old, married and a public speaker, told Cooper that hearing from fellow survivors inspired her to write her own account of not just being forced to travel with religious fanatics Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee at the age of 14, but her efforts to build a life after being returned to her family.
“Every time I speak, someone comes up to me and says, ‘I was raped and I never told anyone that,’” Smart explained. “Or, ‘I was kidnapped,’ or, ‘My dad tried to sell me to pay the mortgage on the house.’ I mean, I have had so many disclosures come to me. So that’s when I started considering writing a book. That’s really one of the main reasons that drove me — because I want to reach out to those survivors, and those victims. I want them to know 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.”
Smart also told Cooper that she helped put herself in a position to be rescued by police by playing into Mitchell’s belief he was an “angel” born on Earth.
“I remember turning around and facing my captors and just telling them, ‘I just have this feeling and I know that God would never speak to me, but I know he’ll speak to you because you’re his servant. You’re practically his best friend,” Smart said to Cooper. “Could you please ask him if we’re supposed to go back to Salt Lake [City], because this feeling, it just won’t leave me and, this is just crazy coming from me, but if you ask him I know he’ll tell you.’ And so he did end up asking. And that was how it was decided we’d go back to Salt Lake.”
Smart was rescued on March 12, 2003, when police found her with Mitchell and Barzee outside a Walmart in Sandy, Utah. Mitchell is currently serving a life sentence in prison. Barzee is currently serving a 15-year sentence at a federal medical facility for female inmates with mental issues. She is scheduled to be released in 2016.
Watch footage from Smart’s interview with Cooper, aired on CNN on Tuesday, below.