I ran this article about a year ago under a different title. This version has a few revisions:
I am not into being socially correct, and if questioning someone’s account of something, and pointing out evidence that contradicts that account, is considered “judgment” then no one in society would ever be held accountable for anything. I do not judge Elizabeth Smart’s soul, only her account of what happened to her and why it happened. God may have given Elizabeth a miraculous ability to not be affected by kidnapping, terror, rape, and being tied to a tree, but God gave me intelligent discrimination and I intend to use it to examine the Elizabeth Smart case.
First off, I want to make it clear that only Elizabeth Smart, Brian David Mitchell, and Wanda Barzee know what truly happened to Elizabeth. I am not presenting my opinion as fact. But it is an opinion based on my experience as a survivor of severe trauma, death threats, rape, terror, and humiliation.
Most people are aware of Elizabeth’s story which began in June of 2002. Elizabeth was age fourteen at the time and was allegedly kidnapped at knife point from her bed at around 2:00 a.m. by self-proclaimed prophet, Brian David Mitchell. The story is that Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, held Elizabeth captive for nine months in the mountains of Utah, just a few miles from her home. Elizabeth’s account of things is that the couple kept her chained to a tree, constantly threatened her life, and that Mitchell repeatedly raped and molested her. There are also charges of sexual abuse against Wanda Barzee.
According to an article in People Magazine, Elizabeth’s abduction began when Mitchell, who was forty eight years-old at the time, entered the Smart family home through an unlocked window. Mitchell allegedly went up to Elizabeth’s room, told her to get her tennis shoes on, and then swept her away to a pre-prepared campsite in the mountains. The story goes that Elizabeth’s younger sister, Mary Katherine (then nine years-old), was terrified and pretended to be asleep. Reports about the case say that when police arrived, Mary Katherine gave them an incorrect description of the abductor and police say that she did not even get a good look at him. She also described him as soft-spoken, calm and polite.
During the first few months of the investigation, Richard Ricci, a handyman with a criminal record, and who had done some work at the Smart residence, was arrested on another charge while investigators worked on finding evidence to charge him in the disappearance of Elizabeth. Ricci remained in prison for three months and he strongly denied any involvement in the case. But investigators, the media, and even members of the Smart family were nearly convinced that Ricci was guilty. Ricci died in prison before the accusations against him were withdrawn. Ricci died with the reputation of being a kidnapper and possible murderer of Elizabeth Smart. Ricci died from a brain hemorrhage. His mind, and thus his body, probably could not take the stress of being falsely accused of the crime.
After Ricci’s death, and maybe out of guilt, Elizabeth’s younger sister Mary Katherine ‘suddenly remembered’ who she thought “kidnapped” her older sister. Four months after Elizabeth Smart went missing, Mary Katherine went to her parents with the revelation that she thought she knew who took Elizabeth. The younger daughter told Ed and Lois Smart that it was “Emmanuel,” a homeless man who had also done some work on the Smart home.
Emmanuel was Brian David Mitchell. Yet the police department placed their attention on Ricci’s so-called guilt and did not follow through on Mary Katherine’s new evidence. Maybe because the police also thought it was strange that Mary Katherine ‘suddenly remembered” who the “abductor” was and they didn’t believe her?
In this interview with Oprah Winfrey, Oprah comments how Mary Katherine “miraculously” remembered that it was Emmanuel who took Elizabeth. I see guilt on the face of Mary Katherine in that video –guilt that she went so long with a lie and that she let Ricci suffer as he did? Maybe so. Siblings will go along with each other in order to be accepted by them. Mary Katherine looked up to Elizabeth. Would she do almost anything for her –even lie about the “abduction?”
Commenting on her new revelation, Mary Katherine said in the interview with Oprah, “I was thinking of who might have taken Elizabeth.” This does not sound like a traumatic repressed memory returning. She says that she was deliberately thinking about “who” might have taken her sister. If Elizabeth had truly been kidnapped, hadn’t Mary Katherine done that a million times before? What was different about this time? Some people might say that “God put the name into her mind.” Maybe so, but when you combine all the other evidence, you have to ask, was Mary Katherine guilt-ridden over Ricci being falsely accused and decided that she finally needed to be truthful? Maybe she even missed her sister so much that she was finally ready to provide the correct information?
Elizabeth was found in the spring of 2003, when several people called police after they noticed an odd-looking trio on the streets of Sandy Utah. An officer found the three people and asked the teenager if she was Elizabeth Smart. Interestingly, Elizabeth said she was not the “girl who ran away.” Curious choice of words. Freudian slip?
After her ordeal was over, Elizabeth was quoted as saying that she was “too terrified to cry out” and that Mitchell told her that if she did, he would kill her entire family. So we have a young girl who was very sheltered in her life, naive’, and we assume she was a virgin at the time of the “kidnapping.” She is suddenly victimized by a strange man in her own bed at knife-point, threatened with death, raped, kept isolated, tied to a tree, held captive for nine months while repeatedly being threatened with death and her family’s lives all threatened. Yet, the very night that she is rescued by officers, Elizabeth Smart nonchalantly goes off to sleep in her own bed, without any fear, telling her parents, “Don’t worry, I’ll be here in the morning.” As a survivor of rape and having had a knife to my throat while being threatened with death if I told of the abuse, I can say with authority….bullshit. Even Oprah commented how “unbelievable” that is.
When Elizabeth appeared on Oprah, she made mention of her first week home being so good because of a “shower and a bed.” Not being safe, no more rapes, no more fear…just a shower and a bed.
Another red flag to me is that Elizabeth said she didn’t live in fear of her kidnappers getting out. Anyone who was tortured, raped, and held prisoner as she supposedly was, would have remnants of some kind of fear of their perpetrator coming after them again one day –this is what true victims experience, even if the perpetrator is in prison, and often, even if they are dead.
Another “miracle” is that by her own admission, Elizabeth Smart has had no professional therapy. She “just talked to her parents” about the whole ordeal. She says she feels no need to talk to a mental health professional about what happened to her.
Here’s another problem, Elizabeth Smart said in her interview with Oprah, “I spent nine months with them.” If someone is kidnapped, threatened with death, and raped, they would say, “I was held captive for nine months” or “While in captivity.”
There are witnesses who saw Elizabeth with Mitchell and Barzee at several public places, including a restaurant where Elizabeth got up and served herself food at the buffet without looking like she was in fear at all. An employee at the restaurant said she showed no outward signs of being held against her will. Elizabeth was fourteen years old, she could have removed her veil, said to everyone in the restaurant, “I am Elizabeth Smart; these people kidnapped me!” and in one second she would have been rescued by everyone in the restaurant, and her captors apprehended.
She had another opportunity when she, Mitchell, and Barzee were stopped by police after complaints that the trio had been harassing customers at a restaurant. Elizabeth said nothing to the officers about who she was.
People explain Elizabeth’s behavior by saying that she was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome but from the moment that she was rescued, Elizabeth Smart has shown absolutely no signs of having suffered from that syndrome.
Read the account of what happened when a police officer finally recognized Elizabeth Smart:
“Sandy Police Officer Karen Jones was the first on the scene. She stopped the trio and asked for some identification. Mitchell told her they were the “Marshall” family from Miami, Florida, and said they didn’t need identification because they were messengers from God. The next officer to arrive was Troy Rasmussen. As soon as he saw the girl in the gray wig, he was convinced that it was Elizabeth Smart. Rasmussen called for assistance, and the police separated Elizabeth from Mitchell and Barzee and questioned her alone. She said she was 18 and insisted that she was not Elizabeth Smart. They asked her questions about her parents’ background, and she stumbled with her answers, then changed course and said they were her stepparents. She openly showed her annoyance with the officers and their persistent questions.”
In this People Magazine article, Elizabeth says, “I feel so fortunate that I was able to come through this unscarred.”
Unscarred? I thought she was repeatedly raped? People magazine’s interviewer remarked, “It’s hard to believe Elizabeth Smart could be completely untouched by what she went through.” Yea, that’s why I don’t necessarily believe it.
Victims who are psychologically attached to their kidnappers -to the point of not trying to escape when they have an opportunity- do not just magically dissolve their bond with the perpetrator once they are rescued. The psychological attachment-conditioning, and fears of death, do not just disappear into the wind the day they are is rescued.
Further evidence that Elizabeth might have been on a runaway adventure gone bad, is found in a report that TV news personality, Katie Couric, apparently received some heat from Elizabeth’s parents about a planned interview with Elizabeth. The report stated that Ed and Lois Smart made it clear that Couric was not to ask Elizabeth any questions that might “traumatize her.” Yet Elizabeth said that from the first day she came home that she was fine. So if she had put it all behind her by the time of the interview, and was no longer traumatized, then what would her parents have to fear? If Elizabeth has the remarkable ability to not be affected in the least by rape and trauma, then why wouldn’t she be able to speak of it? Was Ed and Lois’s fear due to their not wanting Couric to ask some hard questions that might make Elizabeth and the Smart family look bad? Could it be that they did not want the truth to come out?
Referring to Elizabeth, Couric told the Associated Press, “Part of her healing process is her ability to make decisions and do what she wants to do, obviously with her parents’ consent.” First off, this is an oxymoronic statement, and secondly, why would part of the girl’s healing process be to make her own decisions? When you are kidnapped at knife point, raped, tied to a tree, and terrorized in captivity for nine months your healing process would consist of therapy that treats Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Therapy allowing a teen to make her own decisions is indicative of a rebellious girl who ran away because of restrictive conservative Mormon parents.
Elizabeth Smart was asked by Couric in the interview what some of the best things were about being back with her family. Curiously, Elizabeth answers, “Um, just being back and not having to be, like, told I’m a horrible, evil, wicked, evil, evil girl every ten seconds.” Hmmm. Not that you aren’t being raped and tortured anymore? I think that if Elizabeth ran away willingly, she got more than she bargained for with this man, and instead of the freedom and excitement she was looking for, the two nut jobs turned against her and demeaned her.
In the Oprah interview, it is clear that Elizabeth had an average life, was admittedly narrow-minded, and sheltered from the outside world. Elizabeth says herself, “Before, I was just your average Mormon girl.”
If Elizabeth Smart was tired of being a good Mormon girl, and tired of Harp lessons –and if she was rebellious, hormonal, and curious for an adventure, it is plausible that she went willingly with Mitchell. Elizabeth might have ended up enduring things that she did not expect, but if Elizabeth suffered severe trauma, how is it that she was able to just talk to her parents for therapy and not show any signs of PTSD?
Was Elizabeth Smart kidnapped, raped, threatened with death, held hostage and tied to a tree? Or did she become a victim of her own mistake? If she went willingly, it is very different from being a true victim, and she would be partially culpable in any bad experiences that she endured. Elizabeth says, “From the day I came home, I haven’t wasted time looking back.” She does not sound like a victim in this statement. This sounds like a girl who had guilt over what she did and it was to her advantage to ‘put it all in the past and not dwell on it.’ True victims of rape and trauma despise it when people tell them to “put it all behind you,” “Don’t dwell on the past,” or “Let it go.”
According to a story at FOX news, after Mitchell’s arrest, his defense attorney said that Mitchell considers Elizabeth a “Remnant who will return” and that “no harm came to her during their relationship and the adventure that went on.” Delusions of a deranged man? Or the truth slipping out about Elizabeth needing an escape from her family?
Elizabeth Smart made a very telling comment when she commented on her life at college in Provo, Utah. She remarked that it had been difficult for her parents to allow her to be on her own, and that she had to live with her parents in the summer. Elizabeth said, “I have to play by their rules.”
After Jaycee Lee Dugard was found and Elizabeth Smart’s case was back in the news, I could not figure out what it was about Elizabeth and her family that had begun to create anger in me. Then I realized that it is because of her and her parent’s arrogant attitude –acting as if they and Elizabeth are ‘superior beings’ because Elizabeth had ‘put it all behind her right away and didn’t allow it to define her life’ and that ‘it wasn’t affecting her at all’ and that she had no ‘useless need for therapy.’
The Smart case made me think to myself “What’s wrong with me?” “Why was I so sick, dysfunctional, full of phobias and fear? Why did I have panic attacks, suffer from deep depression, have nightmares, and want to die? Why did I need so many years of therapy and all Elizabeth had to do was talk to her parents?” It finally became clear to me that Elizabeth’s comments were demeaning to victims of child sexual abuse, kidnapping, and torture. If she was truly a victim then she ought to explain in detail how exactly just talking to her parents has cured her.
To my knowledge, Elizabeth Smart has never once publicly shown any symptoms, traits, or characteristics of having been though a trauma. To my knowledge, she and her family have never stated publicly that she shows signs of having been through trauma. On the contrary, they have made it a point to say how she is perfectly fine. I see a girl who has the perfect image that Americans love; a blonde haired blue-eyed fair-skinned girl who dresses the part, wears her hair correctly, and who comes from an upscale, church-going, nice Mormon family. Did Elizabeth Smart feel trapped with the seemingly perfect conservative religious family who kept her on a tight leash? Was she a teenager who was intrigued by Mitchell in some way and willingly took off with him but ended up getting more than she bargained for? Is she now a girl who has to maintain the perfect image of the perfect daughter of the perfect mother, in the All-American perfect family?
There are many people who think that Elizabeth Smart was unscathed by her trauma ‘because of her faith.’ Oh? Is Elizabeth Smart somehow ‘above’ all the victims of child sexual abuse who also loved God when they were being abused? What about all the victims who were rescued through Divine intervention, and who all retained their love of God and faith in Him, but who still suffer from their trauma and rapes? Are they not as ‘special’ as Elizabeth? Because this is how Elizabeth Smart and her family make it sound.
I do not find Elizabeth Smart’s situation to be as “horrifying and shocking” as most everyone else does. If her story is true, she is probably a lot better off than those of us who endured years of incest, physical abuse, death threats, and psychological torment by the parents who should have loved us.
It is a true and realistic emotion for those of us who endured molestation and rape by family members to feel that we suffered more than Elizabeth Smart. Nine months with two strangers might be a much better place than nine years with a father who raped and terrorized his child on a constant basis, and a mother who facilitated the incest, and sexually abused her daughter too.
Jean Casarez of Court TV just reported that she spoke with Elizabeth Smart after her testimony today. Casarez told Elizabeth that Elizabeth represented and spoke for abuse victims everywhere. Jean Casarez doesn’t know what the hell she is talking about. Elizabeth Smart does not speak for me, nor can she represent me because I do not believe Elizabeth Smart was traumatized.
- S.L. girl taken from her home”, Deseret News, June 5, 2002, Page A01
- Sister reported the abduction relatively quickly”, Deseret News, June 16, 2002, Page A15
- Utah Girl, 15, Is Found Alive 9 Months After Kidnapping”, New York Times, March 16, 2003 Section A, Page 1, Column 3
- The Kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, by Anthony Bruno, TruTV
- A Second Chance at Life, by Cathy Free, Alex Tresniowski, People Magazine
- Elizabeth Smart kidnapping, Wikipedia
- Couric Defends Elizabeth Smart TV Q and A, by Stephen M. Silverman
- Attorney: Mitchell Considers Elizabeth Smart His Wife, Associated Press
- The State of Utah, detailed charges filed against Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, Third District Court, The Smoking Gun Archive