I remember 2002 as a year of lost girls. Danielle Van Dam disappeared from her home on the night of February 1, 2002. Her body was found almost a month later, with her neighbor already in custody as the chief suspect. In June, Elizabeth Smart was taken from her home, later remembered by her sister to be the family’s former handy man. She wasfound alive less than 20 miles from her home nine months later. On July 15, Samantha Runnion was taken from the front lawn of her grandmother’s home kicking and screaming. Her body was found the following day.
Violence does not discriminate. Assailants have just one thing in common, they seek out the weak and young girls are at the top of the list. According to the UN Women entity, “An estimated 150 million girls under the age of 18 suffered some form of sexual violence in 2002 alone.” The numbers are upsetting and once a female is kidnapped, it is rare that she is found alive. When Elizabeth Smart was found, she woke an entire nation, eager to hear her story of survival.
That story was graciously provided by Elizabeth Smart as she testified against the man who”raped her three or four times a day, kept her tied up with a cable around her leg, and threatened to kill her if she tried to escape.” Many expected that should would disappear from view, eager to claim her privacy and slowly heal. But Elizabeth, the shy young girl whose photo and videos of her playing the harp was misleading. She not only reappeared, she has become a leading advocate in Washington for the weak and those whose voices have been silenced.
In 2006, she spoke to congressional members asking for support of the Sexual Predator Legislation and later that year spoke after the Adam Walsh Act was signed. She wrote about her recovery in “You’re Not Alone,” a document published by the U.S. Department of Justice for victims of violent crime. In 2009, she served as a keynote at the Women’s Congress to discuss overcoming challenges in life. She was also honored with the Diane-von Furstenberg Award in 2011, donating the $50,000 prize to launch The Elizabeth Smart Foundation for victims of violence. Last year, she was hired by ABC News as a special correspondent for missing persons stories.
Yesterday, Elizabeth Smart married her fiance Matthew Gilmour. The couple had planned to marry later in the year, but according to the Daily Mail, “The ceremony had been due to take place in the summer, but due to media attention Ms Smart, 24, and her fiancé Matthew Gilmour decided on the ‘spur of the moment’ to bring the wedding forward, according to the bride’s father.” Smart continues to do everything on her terms. She is an inspiration and an example of grace and poise. When appropriate, moms should tell their daughters about her courage and her ability to overcome daily violence to become a hope giver, strength supporter and evil slayer.