Today a married woman, Smart spoke to the New Yorker with disarming frankness. “There’s a huge difference between rape and sex. Having experienced both, I know it’s not the same thing.”
But she also told a conference at Johns Hopkins last year how “dirty and filthy” she felt after her assailant first raped her. She believes that church teachings about sexual “purity” are a terrible mistake.
“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 getting chewed, and if you do that lots of times, you’re going to be an old piece of gum, and who’s going to want you after that?’ And that’s terrible, and nobody should ever say that.”
However, thinking of her mother’s love caused Smart to reject feelings of worthlessness and made her determined to survive. And no, she never grew to love her captors. Terror, not Stockholm syndrome, prevented her from fleeing until police had Mitchell in handcuffs.
Then she removed her disguise and said, “I’m Elizabeth Smart.”
Gene Lyons is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He can be reached at email@example.com.