Elizabeth Smart revealed on Thursday morning that she was sexually assaulted on a Delta flight last summer by a man who rubbed her inner thighs while she slept.
The kidnapping survivor spent nine months in captivity between 2002 and 2003 after being snatched from her home when she was just 14 by handyman Brian David Mitchell.
She has since devoted her life to helping other kidnapping survivors and is now a married mother of three.
In an interview with CBS This Morning on Thursday, Smart told Gayle King that she felt safe on the plane but was aghast to wake up to the man next to her touching her.
She reported it to Delta afterwards and has since reported it to the FBI which is investigating.
‘I’ve always felt safe on an airplane, I’ve never been worried or felt threatened on an airplane until now.
‘I had been asleep and all of a sudden, I woke up because I felt someone’s hand rubbing in between my legs on my inner thighs.
‘The last time someone touched me without my say so was when I was kidnapped.
‘I froze. I didn’t know what to do.
‘I jerked awake. I expected the man to jerk his hand away, apologize, give me some kind of reason why he was touching me.
‘He did nothing,’ she said.
After the flight, Smart contacted Delta to tell them what had happened.
The airline – which she does not blame for the incident – is now assisting with the FBI investigation into it.
‘I filed a complaint online they called me back and were so apologetic.
‘It’s not delta’s fault. It was this man. This man made a decision.
‘The were appalled, they offered to help as much as they could to back me up as far as I wanted to take this.
‘I did follow up with the FBI.
‘I don’t want him to be preying on other girls. It’s an ongoing investigation right now,’ she said.
Smart said she felt she should have done more because of her history.
‘I kept saying to myself, “You’re Elizabeth Smart, you should know what to do.”‘
‘I called up my husband and said, “do I just have a big badge on my forehead that says easy prey or victim? Because I am sick of it.”‘
She then decided to launch a self-defense class for girls and women so that they have the tools to get out of dangerous situations like the ones she has found herself in.
Her mother Lois attended the class with Gayle King and said she felt proud of her ‘remarkable’ daughter.
‘I think she’s remarkable. She’s a strong woman who survived hardships but to look at her now you would never know she went through anything,’ she said.
Smart said she now knows the difference between consensual intimacy and abuse.
‘I have a wonderful husband, beautiful kids. I have three children – they are mine.
‘They do look like me and my husband. What a lot of people don’t understand is there’s a big difference between rape and sexual assault and loving and gentle and consensual – most importantly – intimacy.
‘There’s a difference. I’ve experienced both,’ she said.
She added that she believes she might have had the confidence to attempt an escape from her captors if she’d had the physical training her class teaches when she was 14.
‘Would it have prevented me from being kidnapped? Probably not.
‘But then I think that wasn’t the end that was the beginning, there was over three miles of terrain that we had to cross.
‘I feel like I would have taken that opportunity during those three miles somewhere.
‘We need teenagers to take this class. We are not training them to be assassins,we’re teaching them to get away,’ she said.
Smart’s father Ed recently announced he was gay. He had been a devout member of the Mormon church.
Her captor, Brian David Mitchell, remains behind bars but the woman who helped him kidnap her, Wanda Barzee, was recently released from prison and now lives in the same town as Elizabeth, despite her pleas to the parole board not to set her free.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Jennifer Smith