Elizabeth Smart, the young woman who made headlines after being abducted for nine months at age 14, spoke out last week against the abstinence-only education she received as a child, suggesting that it deterred her from escaping her captors.
At a John Hopkins University forum on human trafficking, Smart, who was raped repeatedly by her abductors, said abstinence-only education makes rape victims feel “so dirty” and “so filthy,” according to MSNBC.
Smart, now 25, was abducted at knifepoint in 2002, before being taken to a remote location and forced into a polygamous marriage. She was discovered walking down a suburban street with her captors. However, followers of her story have wondered why she did not try to escape immediately upon being taken outside.
Smart offered a response to that inquiry last week, saying that abstinence-only education partially informed her decision not to scream or run away.
“I think it goes beyond fear for so many children, especially in sex trafficking. … It's feeling like 'who would ever want me now? I’m worthless.' That is what it was for me the first time I was raped,” said Smart in a video of the talk, captured by Fox45.
Smart, who grew up in a strict Mormon household, recalled being taught in school that women who engage in pre-marital sex are like chewed pieces of gum that nobody wants to chew again, according to Slate.
“I understand so easily … why someone wouldn’t run because of that alone,” said Smart in the video. “Can you imagine turning around and going back into society where you’re no longer of value?”
At the end of the talk, Smart emphasized that children should be taught that they will always have value no matter what.
Smart is now head of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, an organization that promotes awareness about abduction. In Smart’s native Utah, sex education is required, although conservative lawmakers have repeatedly tried to instate an abstinence-only curriculum, notes ThinkProgress.