TODAY

TODAY   |  October 07, 2013

Elizabeth Smart: Happiness is the best revenge

Former kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart says the best revenge against her captors is to live a life of happiness, and explains that playing the harp and riding horses helps her continue to heal.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> to talk to he lelizabeth smart. there were times when you came very close. there was an installed denlt in particular where a detective walked up to you and you were in a veil and your kidnappers were right there. if you can explain to people how afraid you were that you weren't able to cry for help because i think people need to understand what it was like to be in your shoes.

>> it's really important to realize that i was just 14 and, yes, looking back you think well why didn't she run? why didn't she say something? there was a police officer right there. i mean, that is very easy to say looking back and not being in that situation right now. but 14 years old. i had only ever seen him be successful.

>> he didn't just threaten you. he threatened your family.

>> yes, he told me if i ever screamed, if i ever yelled, if i ever did anything they didn't want me to do or say they would kill me and if they didn't kill me they would kill my family. what a perfect target my family would make because one tragedy already happened to them.

>> he knew where they all lived.

>> what would stop them from a second.

>> there were months when he moved you to california. you outsmarted him and through a series of -- i don't even know how to explain it. you have to read the book but you were able to convince him to go back to salt lake because you knew that was your best chance of rescue.

>> i hadn't been found in california. and they started talking about new places to go like new york and boston and all i could think about is if i wasn't found here there's no way i'm going to be found anywhere else. i have to get back to salt lake so i thought about what he did and how he got away with what he did and i decided to try it myself.

>> so you got him to go back to salt lake . there you were in the walmart. you had just looked at some missing children's posters. this got me. you said he told you they're not looking for you anymore. you walked outside and tell us what happened next.

>> i remember walking upstate street when all of a sudden all of these police cars drove up and jumped out of their cars and came and surrounded us and they started asking all of us questions and i was really, really scared to answer because i had lived with threats every single day and i can tell you that words are stronger than physical chains and i've had both so i know. but they were asking me questions but i was just too scared to answer until finally the police officer separated me from my two captors and they started asking me are you elizabeth smart ? well, if you are, do you know that your family misses you so much and they love you so much and they have never given up on you. don't you want to go home? and it was only at that point i could finally tell them i was elizabeth.

>> the book tells the story of the sweetest reunion with your family and then years later you had to confront this man and this woman who was just as much a tormentor in court. what was it like to look him in the eye one last time?

>> it was -- because i didn't know how i would feel looking at him again, being around him again -- but looking at him again and realizing that he no longer has any part of my life and he will never control me ever again or make me feel bad ever again that he no longer exists in my life and i never have to let him.

>> your mom gave you a wonderful piece of advice that has really helped you. can you share it with everybody.

>> yes. it was the best piece of advice i received. so i'd love to share it. she said the morning after i was rescued this man has taken so much from you. there aren't words strong enough to describe how wicked and evil he is. he has taken nine months of your life from you that you will never get back. the best punishment you could ever give him is to be happy and to move forward with your life and do more than you want to do. by feeling sorry for yourself that's only allowing him to steal more of your life away from you and he doesn't deserve another minute.

>> you're married and back at home and playing your harp.

>> yes.

>> how did you heal?

>> healing takes a lot of different forms and it's different from everybody. there's not a wrong way. there's not a right way. for me, i've had lots of different therapies or healing. i mean, music has played a huge part in my life. i've played the harp since i was 5 and if you have ever listened to the harp it's about the most relaxing instrument so that's been a huge part. my family. i couldn't ask for a better family. i have the best family in the world, and i have loved horseback riding my whole life. my grandpa smart and i were very close and we used to go out riding a lot and although he has passed away riding is still a part of my life.

>> well, elizabeth smart such a joy to talk to you. i'm glad your story has such a happy ending and you have been a wonderful advocate as well. elizabeth smart foundation. you're helping others. thank you for being here. the