Speaking at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum this Wednesday, kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart said that she can understand why some human trafficking victims don’t flee their captors. Smart said she “felt so dirty and so filthy” as a result of being raped by her captor, that she understands why someone wouldn’t run “because of that alone.”
Commenting on the effects of abstinence-only education, Smart said that she was raised in a strict Mormon household and remembered a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence, comparing sex to chewing gum — which made her rape at the hands her abductor more demoralizing.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”
In a story that made national headlines, Smart was kidnapped at age 14 from her bedroom and was freed nine months later in March 2003. Since her rescue, she has started the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which works to protect and educate children about violent and sexual crimes.
Studies have shown comprehensive sex education can help prevent sexual crimes because it teaches children about their bodies and gives them the tools to confront acts of abuse without feeling shamed. Many comprehensive sex-ed programs for children have received a significant amount of right wing religious backlash.