Fresh Air interview with Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth Smart wrote a book about her kidnapping when she was 14 & was interviewed on Fresh Air.

3 things about the interview

  1. wow, what an amazing young woman she is; I plan to read her book

  2. Terry Gross is such a talented interviewer

  3. how SAD when she describes the police rescuing her putting her in handcuffs (WTF?) and how they first asked if she was Elizabeth Smart in front of her abductor and she denied it. finally, one of them said, wait, we have to seperate them before we ask her can’t you see she is afraid of him?

and then we find out the group had been stopped by the police once before but let them go :frowning:

also - when they were out in public the kidnappers relied on the fact that people don’t want to get involved with people that look crazy; this is sad in more way than one. she was 14!!

It’s none of my business and I’ll probably never know one way or the other, but I cannot see how she got raped daily, sometimes multiple times in a day, and never got pregnant. The odds just don’t seem to bear that out.

You don’t believe her?

None of my business either. But I’ll take her word for it unless I get a reason to doubt. Maybe the bastard has had a vasectomy.

I agree with the OP, Terry Gross is very good. I heard her speak once and I’ll always remember the story about her asking an astronaut what space “smells like.” No one had ever asked him that before. (kind of like a fireplace apparently)

I don’t know, it just seems unlikely.

It hadn’t occurred to me that Mitchell might have gotten snipped, so that would be a reasonable explanation that tilts me over to the “believe her” column.

I saw Meridith Viera interview her and fully agree that Elizabeth is a remarkable young woman. To have endured what she did for that long and still have it ‘together’ and still have her sweet personality is nothing short of incredible and I think her parents and her upbringing are the reason for that.

One thing that really struck me listening to her, she mentions how people since have wondered aloud why she didn’t escape or at least try to the several times she was brought out of the mountains and into the city. It infuriates her to hear that question and I think it’s just really hard for some to fully appreciate how terrified she was of her abductor(s) and fearful for not just her life but also that of her family.

Still can’t believe this turned out the way it did, but thank goodness!

I’m a little tired of people shitting on Elizabeth Smart. When she was found it a whole bunch of folks were saying “Oh she went with them willingly cuz she didn’t constantly try to escape!” or similar comments. Total misunderstanding of what the fear level was.

As for the rape and pregnancy: there could be a million reasons why she did not get pregnant. Mitchell may have been snipped, he may have been shooting blanks, he might not have been able to ‘finish the act’, Elizabeth may have been suffering from malnutrition and stress. etc. etc.

Plenty of healthy adults have sex intentionally for multiple years without becoming pregnant. Infertility - perhaps you’ve heard if it?

Moreover Elizabeth Smart was 14. Not all girls even have their period at 14. And it takes several years for the system to spin up - The first three menstrual years have extremely low fertility (no ovulation in 80% of cycles the first year; 50% of cycles in the 3rd year). So even if she had her first period at 11 - which is early but still normal - she was still, most likely infertile the majority of the time.

In the interview they mention that she hadn’t had her first period at the time she was kidnapped.


I know! Every time I turn around there’s a new “Fuck Elizabeth Smart” blog popping up. It’s tiresome!

You may laugh but if Momons were more blog happy…

I wasn’t aware of that. So, okay, that’s good enough for me.

As for “why didn’t she leave,” I’ve heard her address this. You have to understand a bit about the message that young mormon women get in Sunday school and their classes. It boils down to “sex is bad, dirty, and dangerous and you should save it for your husband (at which point, you should flip a switch and be able to fuck like a Thai hooker) but if you do have sex before marriage, you are damaged goods and nobody will want you. No kind decent righteous man will ever want you to be his eternal companion because you are like a chewed up piece of gum.” She has explicitly stated that teaching made her give up because she thought nobody would want her back, after all the horrible things Mitchell made her do.

From Wikipedia:

This has been taught in mormonism since forever. “Also far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation when there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.”

  • Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, LDS Prophet, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 196"

Before he was a Prophet, Gordon B. Hinkley spoke at a General Conference (held biannually) and said, "“I know what my mother expects. I know what she’s saying in her prayers. She’d rather have me come home dead than unclean.”

  • Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, April 1969, pp. 52-53"

Italics mine.

He consistently told her “If you try to run, I will kill you. And then I’ll kill your family”. He told her this for nine months. She saw him get ready to kill people that came close to their camp. He raped her every fucking day. How could she not believe he would carry out his threats? Every time they went out in public, he’d whisper, “if you run, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill your family”.

What is your point? Are you saying she didn’t run because her Mormonism made her feel she was better off not running?

I know why she didn’t get pregnant. This was clearly legitimate rape and womens’ bodies have a way of preventing pregnancy in such cases. Ain’t that right, Mr. Akin?

I heard part of that Terry Gross interview and it was literally a sit-in-your-car-in-the-parking-lot moment.

I got a little teary-eyed twice. Once when she described (as the OP recounts) being rescued by the police and being asked if she was Elizabeth Smart; and then one of the officers realizing that they had to separate her from her abductors before asking the question. Then Terry goes on to ask her about the previous time that they had been questioned by police, and she said “too bad nobody thought of asking you separately then.” And Smart says, with kind of a catch in her voice, “Yes. Too bad.”

Then when she describes being taken away and handcuffs and being afraid that she was being arrested and would be going to jail… and then the realization that jail would be so much better then where she was coming from. And then the scene when her father bursts into the interview room and picks her up and hugs her tightly, and she knows she’ll be safe now…

Anyway, as the father of a young girl myself, it was quite moving.

A part of me firmly believes that those so arrogant as to question or judge this child’s actions, in any way, shape or form, commit a Karmic error of enormous depth. Talk about attracting a life lesson. I shiver with fear for them, in earnest.

yes, you put it a lot better than I did. it seems like police should have better training than that…or just common sense! I’ve had no law enforcement training but - seriously - just from watching crime shows I would know you don’t question someone who may be a kidnap victim in front of the kidnapper.

My point, which she explicitly talked about, was that she felt like damaged goods. Mormon teachings made her feel that, once she’d committed all these sins (and I cited mormon leaders’ quotes to show how things we don’t consider to be sins are sins by their account) there was no use in trying to get free because nobody would want her. The mormon prophet said you should prefer to come home in a pine box rather than come home without your virtue intact – she grew up hearing this message (just as I did). That is not incentive to escape and run home to your family – who might just wish Mitchell had killed her because she was “spoiled” now.

There’s about a gajillion links to this speech, but I chose this one.

That, and the abductor told her he would kill her about every five minutes.

Right. Thankfully her family was ready to welcome her with love and joy at her survival. But how could she be sure? For a sheltered 14 y/o who has not had the chance to develop the skills of compromise that most followers of a religion do in the course of living a regular life, who has had it drilled into her that those teachings are The Truth, it’s credible that she would be unprepared to overcome the conditioning that when this happens she’s already as good as dead. Especially when death, both for her and her family, IS precisely what her captor is offering as alternative to her submission.

(And having been able to violate the family to begin with by grabbing her, she would have no reason to disbelieve that he could carry out his threat against the others)