The victim of a high-profile kidnapping in 2002 spoke to two sold-out Lethbridge crowds on Tuesday.
At 14, Elizabeth Smart was taken from her family’s Salt Lake City, Utah, home and held captive for nine months.
Her captors, Brian David Mitchell — who abducted Smart at knifepoint and repeatedly raped her — and Wanda Barzee were sentenced to life in prison and 15 years in prison, respectively.
Smart, now 32, is married with three young children, and focuses her efforts on advocacy for child safety.
“I think she brings with her a story of hope and empowerment,” said Madeline Gormley, manager of information services for Lethbridge Public Library, which hosted the event.
Smart was the final speaker in the library’s Centennial Speaker Series, which celebrated the institution’s 100th anniversary.
Gormley said tickets for the two time slots for the Smart event at the Yates Memorial Theatre sold out in two days.
“The library is looking to share stories from all walks of life, and so Elizabeth has a really high profile story to share and a lot of advice that I think she can give the rest of us,” Gormley said.
Event organizers did not grant media the opportunity to interview Smart, but she answered audience questions during the nearly two-hour talk.
Smart said despite the dark events of her childhood, she is grateful that she can help other victims with her high-profile position now.
She assured those in attendance that an adverse past does not have to dictate your future.
“Happiness is possible,” Smart told the audience, “and I know it sounds almost cliché, but even if you can’t be happy right now, just believe it exists.”
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.