“Are they less worthy? Has there been a small hole left because they are gone? No. They are someone.”
Despite going through one of the worst experiences that came to mind when she was just a teenager, Elizabeth Smart knows she’s one of the lucky ones.
The 33-year-old kidnapping survivor joined Red Table Talk on Wednesday to discuss the parallels between her case and Gabby Petitos … and the lack of news coverage for all the thousands of still-missing colors.
The show opened with posters by only four-41-year-old Deirdre Reid from South Carolina, 26-year-old Sidney Palmer from Texas, 16-year-old Savannah Guerrero, also from Texas, and 17-year-old Genesis Ramos from Illinois – missing, all either black or Latin. A ticker at the bottom of the screen would continue the theme throughout the section.
AP / Instagram
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Prior to this were footage of Gabby Petito’s father Joseph speaking at a press conference asking the noble request of the needy media to share the attention paid to his daughter’s case with the countless others who silently disappeared.
“I do not know if I lost one of my children in the way that I would be able to afford it,” admitted an astonishing Jada Pinkett-Smith. “When I saw it, it really touched me.”
Participating in Jada and Mother Adrienne at the Red Table (Willow was out touring with her band) was one of the very few people who had disappeared for several months before returning alive: Elizabeth Smart.
In a case that would reflect Gabby’s in terms of media attention, the then 14-year-old was added to the knife from his bedroom in Salt Lake City by Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee.
She would be repeatedly raped, handcuffed and threatened with death until she was rescued nine months later – just 30 miles from her home – by a police officer who spotted her on the street with her detainees.
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Asked how she felt after Gabby’s case today, Smart replied: “I was alive and I came home. Tragically, hers did not end that way.”
“But knowing what it’s like on the other side, and potentially what may have happened, and what may have led to her last moments, and probably understanding much of what she was feeling … it’s heartbreaking.”
When she went into her own terrible ordeal, she admitted, “I always wanted to be saved … I do not know that I always had hope. There were some pretty dark times, for sure.”
“My parents always said that the worst thing about getting me away was not knowing. Was not knowing if I was alive and out there or if I was dead.”
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She said that the night she was kidnapped and taken up into the mountains, she remembers asking her prisoner if he would rape and kill her, and if he was, “could he please do it fairly close to my house? , because it was important to me that my parents found my body and know that I had not run away. “
“Gabby and all the other women deserve to be found, so their stories also come to an end,” she added.
The thought of a 14-year-old asking this to his abductor was too much for a stunned Gammy who broke down in tears.
Smart even admitted that as victims, she considers herself “blessed and lucky” – not because she survived, but because the perpetrators were not family members.
“How many victims and how many survivors do you not believe in?” she asked, pointing out that the only reason she was able to heal after her trials was to have a family to trust – which not all victims have.
Smart would become a prominent child safety activist; Jada praised her for using her platform to “amplify voices from people coming from marginalized societies who may not always get the same amount of pressure that you got or Gabby got” – a situation Smart himself is painfully aware of .
“When I think of all the people, there are so many – so many – whose stories never even see the light of day … and I have never heard of them, “complained Smart.” Like, are they less worthy? Is there less of a hole left because they are gone? No. Like, they are someone. “
Elizabeth revisited the other traumas of her life that came in the wake of her trials, starting with how she refused therapy stemming from her “condescending” first experience with the two psychiatrists who were to speak out — both middle-aged men, the same age as her prisoner, both religious as he was – offered her a choice of stuffed toys while asking for graphic details of the rape.
While she later found out that they were just gathering the information needed to stand before her as an attorney in court, the experience caused her to shut down for therapists for a year to come.
She also said she is still receiving accusatory messages on social media to this day about details surrounding the case, e.g. Why she did not scream when she was abducted, or why she did not immediately identify with the police officer who rescued her.
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“I do not regret not screaming,” she said. “I do not regret that I did what he told me because I am still alive … I absolutely believe that he was able to kill me and then maybe take my sister or even kill me.”
As for why she did not warn the police when she had the chance: “Because for 9 months – no one could protect me from them. Because for 9 months he raped me, chained me, did what he wanted to do to me and I did not “Someone there to protect me. I did not know these policemen; I did not know what they were capable of. I did not know if they could protect me.”
“But I knew my prisoner was standing so close that he was physically touching me. And my other prisoner was so close that she was physically touching me. The was able to kill me. And they threatened me with that every single day. So I did not scream right away. My goal was to survive. And I did not know if I said anything, if I would. But I knew that if I did what they told me, there was a chance I would survive. “
She also recalled that she faced her prisoners later in court for a parole.
While Brian Mitchell is serving life in federal prison with no chance of parole, his wife was released after serving the maximum sentence of 15 years, after receiving a plea deal and helping to prosecute her husband.
Although Smart said her release was “disappointing,” she said it also helped her have a greater appreciation for victims who receive zero justice.
“There are perpetrators who go free every day,” she said. “At least I have something … how many more do not have?”
Later, the table joined CNN anchor and former federal lawyer Laura Coates, who was eager to dispel the “myth” – partly perpetuated by television proceedings – that perpetrators cannot be prosecuted if there is no victim, who is willing to accuse.
AP / Instagram
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Looking back at the infamous body cam footage from the Moab police stop of Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito, Coates said it was a classic example.
“The problem is – as you saw with the Gabby Petito case – sometimes the person when law enforcement gets involved, they suddenly think of the consequences; they think to themselves ‘I love this person and I know what can happen’ . ‘ Or ‘I beat him first’. “
“I always say: unapologetic reports,” she added. “There is a shame that people carry.”
The episode ended with yet another heartbreaking account of another missing person: 24-year-old geologist Daniel Robinson, who mysteriously disappeared after leaving his workplace in Buckeye, Arizona on June 23rd.
His father drove from South Carolina to Arizona the very next day to look for him – and has been there ever since.
Daniel’s Jeep was found overturned in the desert almost a month later, with his wallet, key phone and even his clothes still in place. The airbags were started, the seat belt was fastened and there was no blood. But there was no trace of Daniel.
His mother told the destructive panel that she went to his apartment to pick up his hair from the carpet and put them in a zipper bag “because I at least knew it was a part of him … that was all I had . “
His father said he has received some help from the police, hired his own private investigator, planes, drones and even corpse dogs to help with the search.
“It was so hard to hear,” Coates said after hearing their story, “what his father said at the end – ‘I want you to know he’s contributed to society’ – tells me almost immediately, what so many families, especially families of color, have to endure, talk about how to get people to appreciate the survey to find their child. It’s not even subtle, it’s what stereotypes look like. “
“It just does not go together,” Jada agreed.
Smart concluded: “I do not think there is anyone in all the millions of times your episodes are seen who can say that any of these families are worth less than any other family to have their case pursued, and are any less worthy than anyone else – myself included – to return home. “
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