Elizabeth Smart is now an advocate for missing children and has been hired by ABC News as a contributor on stories about missing persons.
Smart Provides a Smart Close to Conference
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record
The 9th Annual Protect Our Children Conference, co-hosted by the Project Harmony Child Advocacy Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices from Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, wrapped up last Friday with an address by Elizabeth Smart. At 14, Smart survived a most horrific kidnapping from her home and months-long sexual abuse at the hands of her captors.
Smart, now 24 and recently married, told professionals in the packed DoubleTree ballroom that they should never give up the search for the missing. She spoke candidly and movingly about her nine-month ordeal, often revealing a sense of humor when talking about her typical teenage life. She revealed the chilling detail that she could hear searchers calling her name in the early period of her captivity, but was afraid to call out because her life and the lives of her family were threatened.
Unfortunately, it is not often that these people, charged with keeping children safe, hear a first-hand account of an abducted child’s ordeal. Smart conveyed the horror, but also the hope. She described how she decided in the first days of her captivity that she would do whatever it took to survive, because she could not imagine the pain her family would experience if she did not. She said she asked her captor, Brian David Mitchell, if he was going to kill her, to do it where her family could find her body and get some closure. He told her he wasn’t going to do that … “yet.”
The meeting trained more than 600 victim service providers, law enforcement officials, victim advocates, prosecutors, educators, social workers, probation and corrections officers, and others in the latest topics dealing with child sexual abuse, child pornography and child enticement.
United States Deputy Attorney General James Cole and Dave Pelzer, author of A Child Called “It,” also spoke during the three-day conference. Pelzer was the victim of one of the most gruesome and horrific child abuse cases in California’s history.
United States Attorney for the District of Nebraska Deborah R. Gilg said, “The overall goal of the 9th Annual Protect Our Children Conference [was] to increase community awareness, improve investigative and prosecutorial practices and increase collaboration among all participants.