May 14, 2014
12:53 PM
Connecticut Today

Elizabeth Smart Uses Abduction Horror to Inspire Connecticut MS Group

 Elizabeth Smart Uses Abduction Horror to Inspire Connecticut MS Group

National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter president Lisa Gerrol poses with keynote speaker Elizabeth Smart and Women Against MS (WAMS) Luncheon committee member and longtime supporter Liliane Haub.

Elizabeth Smart traveled to Connecticut this week—ten years after she was abducted from her Salt Lake City home—to share her harrowing story with a group of women at the 2014 Fairfield Country Women Against MS (WAMS) Luncheon.

As the May 12 event’s guest speaker, Smart detailed the experience, which she kept to herself for a decade following the ordeal. She first opened up in her book called, My Story, published in 2013.

During her talk, Smart discussed the adversity she has overcome—something that people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis understand. 

According to the National MS Society Connecticut Chapter website, MS is an "immune-mediated" disease that causes an "abnormal response of the body's immune system," which is drected by the central nervous system. The cause of MS is unknown and there is no cure.

More than 280 guests attended the luncheon, which was held at the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich and hosted by award winning television journalist Kendra Farn. The luncheon exceeded its $100,000 fundraising goal.

Smart’s kidnapping was one of the most followed child abduction cases in recent history.

(Smart with Greenwich resident Andy Porrino, who was diagnosed with MS in 1992, and National MS Society Connecticut Chapter president Lisa Gerrol, right.)

She was taken from her home by religious fanatic Brian David Mitchell in June 2002 when she was just 14. For nine months, she was physically and emotionally brutalized by her captor and his wife, Wanda Ileen Barzee, in a hidden camp in the woods not far from her home.

“Over the next nine months, Brian David Mitchell would rape me every day, sometimes multiple times a day, he would torture and brutalize me in ways that are impossible to imagine, starve and manipulate me like I was an animal,” she wrote in her book.

(Shauna and Audrey Varel of Greenwich at the WAMS Luncheon, left.)

In an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Meredith Vieira in October 2013, Smart described those nine months in three words, “boredom, hunger and rape.”

She was eventually rescued in March 2003 and returned to her family. She testified against her captors, which led to their convictions. Mitchell received two life-terms in federal prison and Barzee was given 15 years.

Through the experience she has become an advocate for change related to child abductions, including the promotion of The National AMBER Alert and The Adam Walsh Child Protection & Safety Act. She created the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to help prevent crimes against children and help other victims of sexual abuse.

She also worked with the U.S. Department of Justice to create a guide for abduction survivors entitled "You're Not Alone: The Journey From Abduction to Empowerment."

Smart has proven that your past doesn't have to dictate your future—the point of her talk at the luncheon.  

For more information on the National MS Society Connecticut Chapter, visit the website. 

For more information on the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, click here. 

Contact me by email at khartman@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazineon Twitter, on Facebook and on Google +

 

Elizabeth Smart Uses Abduction Horror to Inspire Connecticut MS Group

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