Elizabeth Smart says that she had been able to move on from her traumatic abduction by erasing her abductor’s power, both physical and psychological, from her life.

Smart has been speaking out about her 9-month abduction recently to promote the release of her memoir, My Story. Smart was kidnapped in 2002 when she was 14-years-old and held captive by Brian David Mitchell and wife Wanda Barzee. The couple kept her as their slave, and Mitchell raped her every day for 9 months until she was rescued.

In an interview with Today’s Savannah Guthrie on Monday, Smart revealed that it was her mother who made her recovery possible.

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Smart recounts what her mother told her the morning after she returned home from her abduction:

“This man has taken so much from you, there aren’t words strong enough to describe how wicked and evil he is. He has taken nine months of your life from you that you will never get back. The best possible punishment you could ever give him is to be happy, is to move forward with your life and to do what you want to do. Because, by feeling sorry for yourself and by holding on to what’s happened to you, that’s only allowing him to steal more of your life away from you, and he doesn’t deserve another second.”

This piece of advice proved true when Smart finally faced her kidnappers in court years later and realized “that he no longer has any part of my life and he will never control me ever again, or make me feel bad ever again, that he no longer exists in my life. And I never have to let him.”

Speaking with Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, Smart recounts how her mother was her guiding light, crucial in her survival, and that coming home to her mother’s arms was what she imagines heaven to feel like.

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Smart explains that she decided to write her memoir so that she would be able to touch more women who are suffering or have suffered similar horrors. Smart, president of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which aims to raise awareness and end violence against children, says that she conducts regular speaking engagements and is frequently approached by audience members who relate to her ordeal.

“I wanted to be able to reach out to these survivors and victims to tell them that they’re not alone,” Smart says.

In the book, Smart describes her abduction and rape in detail for the first time, admitting that, at the time, she would have preferred death:

“I felt like death would have been better than being raped every single day. That was my perspective as a 14-year-old. Now that I’m 25, I can look back and say, ‘I can overcome that, I can get over that.’ But at 14, I couldn’t,” Smart told Today.

My Story, written by Elizabeth Smart and Chris Stewart, is currently out now.

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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