Elizabeth Smart: ‘I don’t feel like I’m defined by my kidnapping’

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Elizabeth Smart refuses to be defined by her kidnapping.

"For me, I don't feel like I'm defined by my kidnapping," she said in an interview Tuesday with FOX 13. "But I certainly feel like it's given me direction in my life."

Smart recently authored a book about her kidnapping, titled "My Story." She said writing about her survival was a reminder of how grateful she is.

"It was almost kind of hard to believe that was me. That was my life," she said of revisiting the events of her nine months in captivity. "I mean, 10 years has passed. I went and finished high school, I've gone to BYU, I've done a mission. I studied abroad. I got married. So much has happened since then. It's almost hard to believe that was my reality, that was my life."

In 2002, then-14-year-old Elizabeth was snatched from her bedroom at knifepoint by Brian David Mitchell. As a young girl, terrified, she said she resolved to see her family again. Her determination, she said, "played a role in my survival."

"The morning that I was kidnapped and raped, I felt terrible. I resolved that no matter what, I'd survive because I had something worth living for," she said.

Smart was held captive for nine months by Mitchell, a homeless street preacher, and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was finally rescued after being found walking down State Street in Sandy with the couple.

She testified of the bizarre crime, being "married" to Mitchell as a polygamous wife and sexually assaulted almost daily, until she convinced them to return to Utah from California -- where she was found.

Mitchell is serving a life sentence in a federal prison. Barzee is serving a pair of 15-year sentences for her role in the kidnapping. Smart said she is glad that Mitchell will "never be able to hurt another girl." As for Barzee's eventual release, Smart said simply: "When that bridge comes, I will cross it."

Surprisingly, Smart said she has forgiven Mitchell and Barzee for what they did to her.

"I don't think I would be able to move on as well as I have, had I not forgiven them," she told FOX 13. "Because I would still be angry over what they had done. I would still be carrying on that hurt and in the end, that really wouldn't be hurting them any. They wouldn't care. That would only be hurting me. That would only be causing me to slow down, me to live in the past really, if I didn't forgive them."

Smart now travels across the country giving speeches and advocating for children and crime victims. She said she wants "My Story" to give others a sense of hope, and tells other crime victims they can be resilient.

"We don't have to walk around the rest of our lives with a Scarlet Letter on us," she said. "I mean, we don't have to do that. We can go on, we can make a difference."