For anyone that knows me, I’m obsessed with true crime stories. Fiction is obviously awesome, but there’s something altogether different about the fact that THIS SHIT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. Every time I read a book of true crime or watch a special on it, I’m constantly thinking, “I can’t believe someone endured this or could do this.” And so it goes.
Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping occurred in the summer of 2002. I was only 12-year’s-old at that time. I vaguely remember hearing about it and I grew up to know about it, but I never knew the particulars. For some reason, it’s one of those cases I never looked up to find out more. Until I read Elizabeth Smart’s My Story memoir, a 308-page look at her kidnapping and a brief look at her life post-kidnapping.
One of the most startling things to me about what happened with Elizabeth aside from the horrific fact that she was repeatedly raped by this disgusting man every day (sometimes multiple times a day) for nine months when she was only 14-year’s-old:
And that this woman, Wanda Barzee didn’t do anything about it:
Is just how circumstantial it all was. That is to say, Elizabeth and her mom were walking down the street and they encountered Brian David Mitchell (pictured above), a homeless man on the side of the street. The mother gave him some money and then even hooked him up with her husband to do construction work around their home. An act of kindness that turned into the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping.
Elizabeth’s book is a breezy read, admittedly, but it’s still harrowing. Being woken up in the middle of the night with a stranger’s knife at your throat, a rough climb through the Utah mountains and then raped by that man as another woman watched and encouraged it. And that was only the beginning. Typically in these situations, you would assume that a person of faith — which Elizabeth was, growing up as a staunch Mormon — would lose that faith, but it’s her faith that keeps her will to survive kicking.
More interestingly, after she was reunited with her parents and saved, a moment that made me cry heavily, we learn that she never underwent therapy. I mean, I get it, as she says, people heal in different ways, but that’s incredible to me that after an ordeal like that, she didn’t talk to someone.
I’d recommend the book to get the perspective from someone that went through a most unusual and rare experience (relatively speaking). It’s astonishing, really.