Marie Claire - UK
As Dark As Life Can Be It Can Still Be Wonderful And Worth Living Image Credit: Marie Claire - UK
As Dark As Life Can Be It Can Still Be Wonderful And Worth Living Image Credit: Marie Claire - UK

‘As Dark As Life Can Be, It Can Still Be Wonderful And Worth Living'

Elizabeth Smart was just 14 years old when she was abducted at knifepoint by street preacher Brian David Mitchell. For nine months she was starved, tortured and raped while the search to find her made headlines around the world. Now, 17 years on, she tells Kate Graham about the terror of her ordeal, her quest to fill her life with love and hope, and her work as a victims’ rights advocate

Kate Graham

‘As the man walked towards us flashing his police badge, I felt a surge of hope. I’d been held in captivity by my kidnapper for four terrible months, raped daily, chained to a post and starved. Could this be the moment I’d be saved? And yet terror kept me silent, rather than telling him I was the missing teen making headlines on the daily news bulletins. My kidnapper Mitchell threatened to kill me and my family if I didn’t do what he wanted. I was just 14 and had no reason to doubt him. He’d already kidnapped me at knifepoint from my home while my nine-year-old sister slept beside me; dragging me to a hidden camp and keeping me captive in the mountains above Utah’s Salt Lake City.

‘That day, as the police officer approached us, Mitchell was calm and convincing as he explained I was his daughter and, as a minister for Christ, it would be a sin to lift a veil he had placed over my head and face. His wife, Wanda Barzee, clamped her hand down hard on my leg as I desperately tried to communicate with my eyes, begging for help. “I can’t speak,” I thought, “because they’ll come after me and my family.” Mitchell and his wife seemed invincible. I remember that sense of despair as the officer walked away. It would be March 2003, five months later, before I was finally rescued.

‘I grew up in a nice neighborhood in Salt Lake City. I come from a warm, normal family. I never

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