The trial for Elizabeth Smart’s alleged abductor, Brian David Mitchell, has begun. Mitchell is alleged to have kidnapped Elizabeth Smart, then 14-years-old, at knifepoint from her home in Salt Lake City in 2002. The ordeal was greatly publicized as her family reached out to the public to aid in Elizabeth’s safe return. Their prayers were heeded and Elizabeth was spotted and recovered nearly 20 miles from her home.
The abduction of a child is any parent’s worst nightmare. No parent wants to face the idea that if their child is abducted, the odds of him/her being killed are 40 percent; 4 percent are never found, with the remainder being recovered alive. However, these children may be gone hours, weeks, or even years before being recovered. No parent wants to face the reality of a child abduction and the life-altering consequences of the act, not only on the family, but the child as well. Many children suffer from depression, attachment disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder after being recovered from a kidnapping. These conditions may requires many months, even years, of psychological therapy and possibly even medications.
I was only 14 years old when the Elizabeth Smart abduction was plastered across the headlines, on the radio and shown on the news. I watched them hold prayer services on the television, I saw her family members plead on the screen for her safe return. I wasn’t a parent yet, but I knew, to a degree, what they were going through, and even worse, I knew what Elizabeth, if she was still alive, was going through. I was abducted shortly before entering kindergarden, and although my abduction did not involve some of the traumatic factors that Elizabeth Smart’s abduction did, it left an impact on me that I still carry with me today.
Four years after the abduction and recovery of Elizabeth Smart, I became a parent, and again, six years after the abduction. When I read about Elizabeth’s case, and recall my own experiences as an abducted child, it is by far the worst fear I have for my children. Even to this day, I have nightmares about my own abduction, except instead of the events happening to myself, they’re happening to my children. I wake up from these dreams in a cold sweat and nearly hyperventilating. No parent wants to go through that. No parent even wants to imagine going through that. The thought alone, especially to me, a victim of childhood abduction, is enough to bring tears to someone’s eyes.
This is why it is so crucial that parents are observant — keeping young children on leashes, or close to you in a baby carrier or stroller (that must never leave your site), and keeping your windows locked and secure, as well as your doors even if you’re home! This is why supervising your children in the yard or at the park is so important. Tell your child about Elizabeth Smart; tell your child about me. Tell them how important it is to never go with a stranger, even if they say they know their mom or dad. Develop a code word so your children will know if their parents really did send someone for them, and make sure they know this word by heart. Tell your children how much you love them, and that is why these things are so important. Not all abductions are preventable, but preventing the opportunity is another way you can protect your child.
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