Lessons From Elizabeth Smart’s Kidnapping

Keeping the line bold between abusers and victims over all types of abuse

Elizabeth woke to a knife at her throat and a threat to stay quiet or her younger sister, lying next to her in bed, would be killed. Terrified, 14-year-old Elizabeth went with her kidnapper more concerned about protecting her family than herself. She went on to have a sensational story of being married as a second wife to an evil, narcissistic psychopath who raped her daily for nine months. Finally found and rescued by the police, she went home to throngs of well-wishers and reporters rejoicing in her safe return.

Celebrations are proper and good in such situations. A child captive set free and returned to a loving family who never quit their desperate search for their daughter breaks all of our hearts. The sexual perversion foisted onto her makes our blood boil. It should.

Our culture understands kidnapping and sexual enslavement. There are many wonderful supports for survivors and great understanding from family and public alike. We want to read the survivors’ stories and hear about their struggle and strength. We are inspired to stay vigilant for our own family.

Imagine if no one had even known that Elizabeth Smart was missing. Then she turns up and tells people about what happened to her. Her parents scathingly accuse her of being a liar and the public tells her that kidnappings and sexual enslavement don’t happen. Friends turn against Elizabeth and she becomes an outcast to her family. She goes to church and hears over and over about how she hasn’t forgiven people in her life and is shamed that she isn’t happy and vibrant in life.

This doesn’t happen in Elizabeth Smart types of kidnappings and horror. But there are other sexual abuse genres (if you will) that turn out very much just like our crazy example. The situations I am talking about are as turned upside down from Elizabeth’s true abuse as can be.

I HATE the word “incest”, but I will go with it because it is universally understood. It is a neat and tidy word that explains raping and sexual viewing/touching. These are children who are sexually abused in the home. While people know that it truly happens, there is huge societal pressure not to discuss it and not to get involved in rescuing these children. There is huge family backlash if any abused child gets out of line, and if the child (or adult if they disclose later in life) doesn’t recant the abuse, the victim will get kicked out of the family. Then they sit in churches and hear about how unforgiving they are, shaming the victim instead of speaking out against the perpetrators. Many times, the perpetrators themselves are sitting in the seats.

Satanic Ritual Abuse victims are treated even worse. Most times they are taken to the rituals by their own parents where they are sexually tortured and horrificaly traumatized by death and blood of animals and sometimes humans. In this case, society says that SRA doesn’t happen and feel sorry for the poor family that had this horrible accusation foisted against them by their own child. These victims are also kicked out of the family and are seen as mentally crazy.

It is interesting to compare law enforcement and courtroom reactions to the three different types of abuse we are talking about today. In the kidnapping/sexual abuse scenarios, it is very obvious to society who the bad guy is, who the innocent victim is, and the perpetrator goes to jail for a very long time. In incest cases, many times they never even make it into the courtroom. If they do, it is hard to get a conviction with the blurred lines between perpetrator (but he is a pillar in society! He would never…) and the victim (if this was true, why didn’t she tell a teacher when she was young? She would have told someone!). Sometimes the defense will go so far as to say the victim made it up. If there is a conviction, there is not very much jail time at all.

In SRA it even more bizarre. The parents immediately turn the entire family against the victim if they speak out. They are either quickly recant, or they are outcasts from their family. The family turns viciously against the victim and tries to shame them in front of their family and friends. Society says that they don’t believe it ever happens. Churches don’t know what to do with the victims, and tend to think they are more demonically controlled and need demons cast out. Here not only is the victim made guilty, but their very spirituality is questioned.

Hearing the story of Elizabeth Smart gives me hope. If society can understand the kind of abuse that happened to her, then I believe incest will one day be seen in the same black/white view. Maybe one day SRA will as well.

If you are still reading this, I thank God for you. It is time that society gets educated on all abuses, not just the ones that make logical sense. Society not wanting to deal with or know about incest or SRA is unacceptable. Our churches need to step up and start helping the victims instead of shaming them.

I thank God that Elizabeth Smart was rescued. I highly recommend her book, “My Story”. As you look closely at how easy it is in her case to figure out who was the bad guy and who was the victim, I encourage you to extrapolate that to incest and SRA as well. We need to call out abuse and abusers. If they face what they have done here and now, not only will it alert others to their perversions, it will save those abuses from being thrust on other children. The only way to save incest and SRA victims is through education and prevention. You cannot prevent what you refuse to look at.