SALT LAKE CITY – Elizabeth Smart spoke at Johns Hopkins University last Wednesday, sparking conversation about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and sex education.
Are the LDS faith and sex education in Utah the reasons why Elizabeth Smart didn’t scream for help or break free from her captor, Brian David Mitchell?
Smart said she felt dirty and filthy after being raped and like a chewed-up piece of gum. She made the comments during a speech about human trafficking at Johns Hopkins University last Wednesday.
“I remember in school one time I had a teacher who was talking about abstinence and she said, ‘Imagine you’re a stick of gum and when you engage in sex, that’s like being chewed. And then if you do that lots of times, you’re going to be become an old piece of gum and who’s going to want you after that,'” said Smart.
Smart was 14 years old when she was kidnapped, raped and held captive in 2002. More than a decade later, Smart says people still ask her questions.
“One of the questions that is most commonly asked of me, ‘Well why didn’t you run away, why didn’t you yell, why didn’t you scream?'”
During her speech, Smart said “I was raised in a very religious household one that taught that sex was something special that only happened between a husband and a wife who loved each other, and that’s the way I had been raised and that’s what I had been determined to follow that when I got married then and only then would I engage in sex and so for that first rape I felt crushed, I felt so dirty and so filthy I understand so easily why someone wouldn’t run because of that alone.”
Holly Mullen, executive director of the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City, says, “There is an enormous amount of judgment in our society against victims of rape. I think there is largely a cultural message for women still even in this day that you are responsible for being pure and taking care of yourself sexually. I think certain religions emphasize that more than others. Personally I would really love to see this handled in schools professionally and in a meaningful way but I think it’s been clear over the years in our state that’s something politicians and parents disapprove of.”
Smart’s revelations triggered online comments.
LDS Author Joanna Brooks wrote, “Traditional Mormon Sexual Purity Lessons contributed to captivity, Elizabeth Smart tells University Audience.” Another online article’s headline reads, “Abstinence Education teaches rape victims they’re worthless, dirty and filthy.”
Ed Smart told Fox 13 his daughter was simply sharing her experiences, speaking for herself as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but she wasn’t trying to make any religious or political statements.