Where Is Elizabeth Smart Today?

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

The missing person's case of Elizabeth Smart is one of the nation's most gripping abduction and rescue stories. On June 5, 2002, the 14-year-old was abducted at knifepoint from her bedroom by a man who ordered her to follow him or die. The Salt Lake City native's family agonized for months, chasing leads and enlisting the help of John Walsh's America's Most Wanted program. After countless dead ends, a recollection by Smart's younger sister provided the breakthrough evidence investigators needed to rescue her — she had seen her sister's abductor before. After nine agonizing months of sexual assault and torment, the culprits were located 18 miles from the Smart family's home. Smart was rescued March 12, 2003.

The kidnappers, husband and wife Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, were transients the Smart family had encountered just months before the kidnapping. According to the Daily Mail, the family saw Mitchell begging on the street and offered him work as a handyman at their home. While Barzee completed her prison sentence six years early in 2018, Mitchell is serving a life sentence in a Utah prison.

Smart, who will turn 32 in 2019, has grown into a strong and successful woman who refuses to let the traumas of the past define her. Let's take a closer look at her many impressive endeavors.

Elizabeth Smart is an activist

Most admirably, Elizabeth Smart and her father successfully lobbied Congress in 2006 to pass a law to create a national sex-offender registry. Smart also advocates tirelessly for the AMBER Alert system and other measures to combat kidnapping and abuse. "I just hope that no child or anybody would ever have to go through what I went through because nobody deserves to go through that," she told CNN's Larry King Live in 2006 as she prepared to begin college. "Fortunately for me, I haven't been slowed down by anything. But other people sometimes it just drops their whole life around it, and they can't move on because it's so horrible to them."

In addition to political advocacy, she's also a big proponent of female empowerment. Smart brings an especially interesting perspective to the conversation as she grew up Mormon in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), where she was taught to refrain from sex until marriage. Although there's nothing wrong with this (to each their own), Smart has pointed out the potential problems with this philosophy in regards to young women. "If you were taught to wait for marriage to have sex, what happens when that little 14-year-old girl is raped?" she told Today on the topic of sexual abuse and assault. "She's feeling like she's dirty. Who's going to marry her now? Abuse is not your fault. It won't lessen or cheapen you in any way."

She's also a journalist

Elizabeth Smart accepted a position with ABC News as a missing persons expert for Good Morning America in 2011. In addition to providing a platform for her own activism, her work as a TV journalist has allowed her to delve deep into the cases of other missing persons and to help raise the public profile of stories similar to hers. In her case, nine months of media attention stoked by her family and supporters helped keep her story alive and people searching. Had public attention waned, Smart may never have been found, so it's amazing she's using her platform and perspective to make a difference.

Of course, reporting on crime isn't always easy for Smart. This sentiment was especially true when Smart, who also works at Crime Watch Daily as a special correspondent, spoke to sexual assault survivors who attended her alma mater at Brigham Young University. "It's still hard for me, because our stories do have similarities, and going back over her story reminds me of how I felt and what I went through, and that's hard," she said in the report. We can't commend Smart enough for her strength and careful reporting — it's clear she's doing very important work.

Smart launched her own foundation

In 2011, Elizabeth Smart's life took an especially impressive turn when, at age 24, she launched the Elizabeth Smart Foundation. The organization teams up with groups such as the Internet Crimes Against Children task force to help prevent human trafficking, while also offering educational support to students on the subjects of violent and sexual crimes. Furthermore, it provides resources for parents and children, and it supports law enforcement rescue efforts.

As for the organization's specific initiatives, in 2018 it launched Smart Talks, "which consists of Smart, survivors, doctors, and prevention education specialists speaking to college students about healthy ways of coping with sexual violence," according to Hello Giggles. The push was inspired by the #MeToo movement, a phenomenon Smart believes is incredibly important. "This movement is needed. Having survivors coming forward and talking about it isn't only making this issue real for themselves, but it's also setting this precedent: It is now okay to admit that something has happened to you," she told the outlet. "It's okay to admit that you were raped, and there are other people out there who are your — I guess, let's say — comrades in arms. You're not alone."

Thanks for working to draw awareness to such an important cause, Smart.

Elizabeth Smart wrote two books about her experience

The simply titled My Story, published in 2013 with the help of co-author Chris Stewart, is a sober, first-person recollection of Elizabeth Smart's experience at the hands of her captors. Around that time, Smart told The New Yorker that she thought carefully about the tone of the book. "It's not so gruesome that it would be unbearable to read," she said. "That was important to me." Smart's aim was to make "talking about rape and abuse not such a taboo."

Five years later, Smart — a then mother of two with one on the way — penned a follow-up memoir titled, Where There's Hope. As the book's title implies, Smart explored the concept of hope, using her horrific experience as a jumping off point. "In this book, Elizabeth returns to the horrific experiences she endured, and the hard-won lessons she learned, to provide answers," according to Macmillan Publisher's website. "She also calls upon others who have dealt with adversity — victims of violence, disease, war, and loss — to explore the pathways toward hope." 

In an interview with Deseret News, Smart expressed an important takeaway from the book, stating: "I am hearing more and more survivors coming forward and sharing their stories, saying 'This is not OK, and I'm not going to let this define me and I'm not going to let this hold me back from being who I want to be.'" Talk about a crucial message, right?

She's a devout Mormon

At a human trafficking forum held at John Hopkins University in 2013, Smart talked about the difficult work of reconciling her religious values about sex with the sexual torture of her captivity. She recalled the moments after she was raped for the first time, losing the virginity valued so dearly by her faith: "I felt like my soul had been crushed. I felt like I wasn't even human anymore. How could anybody love me or want me or care about me? I felt like life had no more meaning to it, and that was only the beginning."

Smart recalled a time prior to her kidnapping when a teacher spoke to her class about abstinence. The teacher said, "Imagine you're a stick of gum, and when you engage in sex, that's like getting chewed. And then if you do that lots of times, you're going to become an old piece of gum, and who's going to want you after that?" After her rape, Smart thought, "I'm that chewed up piece of gum." Smart told the conference that she now understands that nothing about her terrible experience was her fault; that it did not take away her worth and value. She holds tight to her faith and a belief that "there's nothing God will give us that we can't handle."

In 2009, she embarked on a mission trip to France. In addition to providing her with a welcome degree of anonymity, she said her work overseas bolstered her faith and redirected her career. "When I was out in the field contacting person after person, I started thinking, 'The gospel is something so important to me. I wish I could reach out to more people universally,'" she told LDSLiving. "Then I realized, 'Wait a second, I can. I can help a lot more people' by working with the media to advocate for her beliefs and empower other victims.

Smart's a proud wife and mother

Elizabeth Smart married Matthew Gilmour of Aberdeen, Scotland in a small and private February 2012 ceremony at a Hawaiian Mormon temple, as the Deseret News reported. The fellow Mormons reportedly met during her overseas mission trip, a tradition in which they and other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "actively" shared their faith with others. Following the wedding, they welcomed daughter Chloe in February 2015 and son James in April 2017. According to People, Smart once admitted her ordeal "probably made me like the most paranoid, overprotective, annoying parent ever. I'm definitely given a whole new depth of feeling about everything." Even so, "I'm happy," she said. "I'm really happy."

But just when you thought Smart's family was complete, she welcomed her third child, a daughter named Olivia, in November 2018. "Love this little girl so much!!!!" she wrote on Instagram shortly after the birth. "Im continually astounded how much a mother can love her children." Speaking of love, Smart couldn't be happier in her role as mom, telling People: "My children have brought so much happiness and joy. To me, they're the very definition of love." Aww. We're so glad to hear Smart has found so much joy with her adorable family.

Elizabeth Smart is raising awareness about pornography

Elizabeth Smart isn't afraid to speak her mind, as evidenced by her decision to publicly address her captor's obsession with pornography. In a public service video for Fight the New Drug, an organization that provides information and resources about pornography addiction, Smart stated: "I can't say that he would not have gone out and kidnapped me had he not looked at pornography. All I know is that pornography made my living hell worse." We don't want to dive too deep into Smart's retelling of events, but she described how her abductor would use pornography as a reference point to sexually abuse her. 

Smart hasn't spoken out against pornography again since the time of this writing, but she was tangentially connected to a proposed anti-porn bill put forth by a controversial activist named Chris Sevier. In 2012, he tried to pass a bill in Rhode Island — named the Elizabeth Smart Law — that would require a $20 fee to view pornography online. Smart's lawyer sent a cease and desist letter on her behalf, with her spokesperson telling the Associated Press that "there was absolutely no authorization to use her name." 

The state of Rhode Island ultimately decided not to move forward with the proposal, and Sevier told the AP that he wasn't trying to "hurt" Smart.

Smart's father felt 'huge relief' after coming out

Elizabeth Smart's family underwent a big change when her mother, Lois Smart, filed for divorce from Ed Smart in July 2019. The split wasn't made public at the time, but the truth came to light one month later when Ed came out as gay. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Ed said he was surprised when the news spread so quickly, and that he wrote his coming out letter on Facebook to debunk gossip related to his broken marriage for his family and friends. But the letter was eventually picked up by numerous news outlets, with Ed writing, "The decision to be honest and truthful about my orientation comes with its own set of challenges, but at the same time it is a huge relief."

Ed also criticized the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), stating, "I have mostly watched in silence for years as many LGBTQ individuals both in and out of The Church have been victims of ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation." As for Lois, Ed said in his letter he felt deep "regret" for the "excruciating pain" he had caused her. 

Elizabeth shared her own statement about the matter, noting how "nothing could change" the love and admiration she has for her parents. "Their decisions are very personal," she told Today. "As such, I will not pass judgment and rather am focusing on loving and supporting them and the other members of my family."

She handled her female abductor's release with great strength

Elizabeth Smart's world was turned upside down for a moment when her female captor was released from a Utah prison in 2018, six years before her expected release in 2024. The legality behind the situation was a tad confusing, but what was clear? Smart's frustration with the outcome. "I find this news greatly disturbing and incomprehensible," she wrote in an Instagram post at the time. "In my efforts to learn more it seems there are no viable legal options open to me at this time."

Despite Smart's horror, she managed to pull through and find peace after her captor's release. "I know Elizabeth feels very comfortable with how things are considering that initially we were told she wouldn't be out until 2024, and then two months later, she's being released," her father, Ed Smart, told Radar Online. "That was a little adjustment, but everything is good."

Elizabeth Smart also released her own follow-up statement on Instagram, writing in part: "I truly believe life is meant to be happy and beautiful, and no matter what happens that will remain my goal for me and for my family."

Elizabeth Smart's a beacon of support for other survivors

To Elizabeth Smart's credit, she's a great resource for other kidnapping survivors, including Wisconsin teen Jayme Closs. The middle schooler endured an unthinkable horror when a stranger murdered her parents and abducted her, keeping her in captivity for three months. Thankfully, Closs was able to escape, and Smart was there to offer her words of support after she was found. "She is just incredible," Smart told CBS This Morning about Closs' display of strength. "What she has been through and how she was able to escape, she's truly a hero."

Smart also made it a point to offer Closs hope for the future, stating: "She will not be able to go back to who she was before she was kidnapped. She will never be able to just return to life before. But that doesn't mean that what has happened needs to destroy her future or needs to define her future."

Smart narrated a movie about her ordeal

Elizabeth Smart pushed her creative limits when she narrated a 2017 Lifetime movie about her ideal, titled I Am Elizabeth Smart. Although Smart was reluctant at first to be involved in the film, she ultimately felt confident enough with the project's direction to take part. Smart, who also helped produce the film, told Woman's Day about the movie's crew: "They've kept me in loop every step of the way. I was so sick of reading the script by the end, but seeing it go from script to actors acting it out, seeing it come to life, was incredible. Terrifying, but incredible."

Another reason she took part? Smart wanted to silence critics who questioned her actions while in captivity. "Hopefully the next time someone comes up on the news they [the viewers] won't be the people asking, 'Well, what was she doing?'" she told Woman's Day. "It doesn't matter what the circumstances are. Rape should never happen. Kidnapping should never happen. Abuse should never happen."

All about Smart Justice

Elizabeth Smart brought her advocacy work to the small screen when, in April 2019, she hosted a special for Lifetime called Smart Justice. The program, inspired by the abduction of Wisconsin teen Jayme Closs, brought six fellow abduction survivors on to discuss finding hope after loss. "Now an activist and advocate for missing persons, Smart leads a roundtable of women who know Jayme's nightmare all too well, including, Gina DeJesus, Katie Beers, Kara Robinson, Alicia Kozakiewicz, Denise Huskins, and Sarah Maynard," Lifetime's website states. "These women are all survivors of their own infamous abductions, assaults and attacks and for the first time, are coming together with Elizabeth to help provide valuable insight to Jayme's story."

Smart also took to Instagram to express her three hopes for the special, stating: "My hope is that any survivor could watch this and walk away feeling that 1. They are not alone. 2. No matter what they have been through they can over come what has happened. And 3. Life is beautiful and meant to be lived, and just because something bad has happened it doesn't mean that what happened has to define you."

Elizabeth Smart snagged an Emmy nomination

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) bestowed a great honor on Elizabeth Smart when it nominated her for a Daytime Emmy Award in January 2018. The nomination was for Smart's work as a special correspondent for Crime Watch Daily in the category of outstanding special class series. Smart was undeniably thrilled about the nod, captioning a photo of her nomination letter: "Can't believe this just happened!!!"

Many supporters, however, weren't shocked by Smart's accomplishment. "Of course you did! So well deserved!" one person commented on her post. "Your decision to stand up and be a voice to the world, to help others so selflessly, is a blessing to so many out there! Keep doing THAT. You are what the world needs. You never gave up hope and never lost faith while enduring your captivity, and that is an amazing example to so many people." 

We don't think we could have said it better ourselves.