(CNN) — A decade after Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping ended, she is sharing intimate details of her 9-month-long nightmare.
Smart, now 25 and married, spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper Monday about her book “My Story,” which she said tells 100% of what happened to her.
“I didn’t just want to go 10% and sugarcoat the rest,” Smart told Cooper. “I wanted it to be really what happened and what it was like every single day I was there, because I don’t think I’m do anyone any favors by sugarcoating it.”
Her motivation for opening up is the realization that people don’t often acknowledge the “just staggering” fact that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.
“I want to reach out to those survivors and those victims,” Smart said. “I want them to know that these things do happen, but it that doesn’t mean that he have to be defined by it for the rest of your life. You can move forward and you can be happy.”
Smart’s horrific story began on the night of June 5, 2002, when Brian David Mitchell dragged the 14-year-old girl from her bedroom in her family’s Salt Lake City, Utah, home.
“To me, in my bedroom is the ultimate place in safety,” she said. “I mean, I felt like that was the safest place in the world for me, so waking up in the middle of the night in my own bedroom having this strange man standing over me, someone I didn’t recognize, not only that but having a knife being held to my throat, I was terrified. I had grown up in a very happy home and I really didn’t know what the definition of fear was until that moment. That brought whole new meaning.”
The street preacher threatened the child unless she left with him quietly, she said.
“He said ‘I have a knife at your neck, don’t make a sound, get up and come with me,'” Smart told Cooper. “And then I remember getting up and going with him, and then on the way through my house he bent over to my ear again and said ‘If you make any sound, if you do anything that causes any attention or causes someone to come, I not only will kill you, but I will kill anyone who tries to stop me.'”
Smart described the first hours of her ordeal, when she was “praying so hard for an escape.”
“I kept looking, I kept waiting for something to happen, for someway for me to get away,” she said. “I kept looking and it didn’t happen. When I didn’t see an escape route, I thought ‘Oh, my goodness, I’m going to be raped and then I’m going to be murdered, because that’s what happens to all of the other kids I’ve ever seen on the news who had been kidnapped.”
Mitchell forced her to hike with him for hours that morning, away from her home, she said.
“I remember stopping him and asking him ‘Well, if you’re going to rape and kill me, could you please do it here?’ because, in my mind, I wanted my parents to know what had happened to me,” she said. “I wanted them to know that I hadn’t run away, that this wasn’t my choosing, I wasn’t upset with them. I wanted them to know what had happened to me.”
Mitchell’s response was chilling.
“I remember he just looked back at me and said, ‘Oh, I’m not going to rape and kill you yet.’ And then we kept going and I remember we got a little further and I stopped him again and I said ‘Well, don’t you realize what you’re doing, I mean, if you get caught you’ll spend the rest of your life in prison?’ And he looked at me again and he said, ‘Well, I know exactly what I’m doing and I know what the consequences are. The only difference is I’m not going to get caught.'”
After several hours, they arrived in a mountainside camp where Mitchell’s wife, Wanda Barzee, was waiting.
“I was terrified when I got to the camp, but the scariest thing about the camp camp was this woman,” she said. “I remember she came out and she had on robes and she had on a headdress and she came up to me and she hugged me. But this hug was not comforting. I mean, if hugs could speak this hug would have said, ‘You’re mine, you will do exactly what I tell you to do.'”
Nine months of terror
The constant sexual abuse by Mitchell began that day.
“The next nine months, my days consisted of being hungry, of being bored to death because he talked nonstop always about himself,” she said. “I mean, talk about self-absorbed. And then my days consisted of being raped. I mean, not just once, multiple times a day.”
While Smart’s story is about hope and survival, the details are filled with despair.
“Every time I thought ‘OK, this is rock bottom,’ I mean, my pajamas have been taken away from me and I’m being forced to wear this nasty robe, the next thing I knew they’d say, ‘We’re going to have you go naked now,’ or I had been forced to drink alcohol, which I had never done before,” she told Cooper. “I would throw up and I would pass out and when I’d wake up I’d find that my face and my hair was just crusted to the ground in vomit. mean, just every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, something always happened.”
Smart said she eventually decided that she would be a survivor and she would get back to her family.
Smart’s rescue on March 12, 2003, was followed by second-guessing by people who wondered why she hadn’t escaped on her own. Why had she told a detective who talked to her at a library that she was not the kidnapped girl?
Smart: Never judge a victim
“You can never judge a child or a victim of any crime on what they should have done, because you weren’t there and you don’t know and you have no right just to sit in your armchair at home and say ‘Well, why didn’t you escape? Why didn’t you do this?’ I mean, they just don’t know,” she said. “That’s wrong. And I was 14. I was a little girl. And I had seen this man successfully kidnap me, he successfully chained me up, he successfully raped me, he successfully did all of these things. What was to say that he wouldn’t kill me when he’d make those threats to me? What was to say that he wouldn’t kill my family?”
The second half of Smart’s interview with Cooper, in which she reveals details of how she was finally rescued, will air on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” Tuesday night.
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