Elizabeth Smart is standing tall. The activist, 30, opened up during a conversation at Lock Haven University on Wednesday, September 20, just hours after Wanda Barzee, the woman who helped kidnap her when she was only 14, was released from prison.
“I would like to begin by saying that there isn’t anything in this world that anyone can do to you to take away your worth as a human being,” Smart told the hundreds of people who gathered to hear her speak. “I want every victim and every survivor to know there is nothing that anyone can do to you to change your worth as a human being and if you can’t believe that for yourself, then believe me, because I know it’s true.”
On the subject of Barzee’s release from prison, Smart stayed strong. “I am not going to let these people or this woman stop me from living the life I want to live,” she stated. During the conversation however, she did reveal what it was like the first time she met Barzee when her husband, Brian David Mitchell, kidnapped her from her home in 2002.
“The way she looked was different, but it was just something about her, something that I knew she wasn’t there to protect me, she wasn’t there to help me,” Smart said. “The first thing she did was, she hugged me and it wasn’t like a nice, super soothing calming hug, like ‘It’s going to be OK.’ It wasn’t like that at all. It was just like she was trying to tell me if I ever crossed her or I ever did anything she didn’t want me to do, I would be sorry and if you could convey that all in a hug, that’s what it felt like.”
Barzee and Mitchell held Smart captive for nine months. Barzee pleaded guilty to the crime in 2009 and was released from Utah State Prison on Wednesday morning. She will remain under supervision for five years. Mitchell is currently serving a life sentence.
In the early hours of Thursday, September 20, authorities received a noise complaint from the InTown Suites extended-stay hotel where Barzee, now 72, was staying, a public information officer from the South Salt Lake City Police Department confirmed to Us Weekly. However, police did not respond to the scene as they attempted to call back the complainant and no one answered. An unidentified guest told TMZ that Barzee was “wailing religious scripture at the top of her lungs.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, September 18, Smart recounted her horrifying experience, saying that Barzee “would encourage” her husband to rape her. “I was raped every day after that, multiple times a day,” she said on CBS This Morning. “She would sit right next to me.” She also took to Instagram Wednesday morning to call the last few weeks “a roller coaster of emotion.”