Elizabeth Smart visits Lock Haven University, speaks out after captor's prison release
LOCK HAVEN, CLINTON COUNTY (WOLF) -- Wednesday night, Elizabeth Smart told a crowd at Lock Haven University how she was handling her captor's prison release, the traumatic story of her kidnapping 16 years ago, and the details of her new book about how she moved on and eventually reclaimed her life.
"I received a lot of the same questions over and over. How do you keep going? How do you find happiness again? How do you forgive? How do you move on? And I kept thinking if I get asked these questions all the time then there is surely a bigger audience that has the same questions," Smart said.
Smart was just 14-years-old when she was snatched from her Salt Lake City home by then-married couple Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee.
She says Barzee treated her like a slave and encouraged her husband to rape her.
Today, Barzee was released from a Utah prison after a 15 year sentence. Officials say they miscalculated the amount of time she was supposed to be locked up.
Smart expressed her outrage in an Instagram post last week, and also addressed the situation tonight, saying she's been experiencing a rollercoaster of emotion over the last few weeks. She also said that she wasn't going to let Barzee's release take control of her life.
"I just think the best thing that all of us can do, that I will continue to be, and I hope everyone else continues to be is vigilant in protecting our families, our friends, our communities, but also to not live in fear and to move forward with their lives because that's certainly what I plan to do," Smart said.
Many of the college students attending tonight's event -- which included a Q&A session and book signing -- weren't old enough to remember Smart's kidnapping, but you wouldn't be able to tell by the long line of seemingly thousands winding around campus.
While many were excited to hear her speak, they were also thinking about the story making headlines.
"If it were me, and I really shouldn't be putting myself in her shoes, but I know that I couldn't find forgiveness. That's just crazy," Marissa Iraca, a freshman, said.
But when asked if speaking today took more courage than usual, Smart seemed to stick to the same message of perseverance she delivered tonight.
"As much courage as it takes to live everyday."