“I called up my husband and I was saying, ‘Do I just have, like, a big badge on my forehead that says, “Easy prey” or “victim,” because I am sick of it,’” Smart told “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Gayle King in a segment broadcast Thursday.
“I've always felt safe on an airplane,” Smart said. “I've never been worried. I've never felt threatened on an airplane. Until now.”
She didn’t specify when the assault occurred, just that she was flying into Salt Lake City on a Delta flight.
“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 thigh,” she said. “I was shocked. I mean, the last time someone touched me without my say-so was when I was kidnapped. And I froze. I didn't know what to do.”
And that, she said, surprised her after all the work she's done as a victims' advocate.
“I kept saying to myself, 'You're Elizabeth Smart! You should know what to do!'”
In 2002, then-14-year-old Smart was kidnapped at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City bedroom by Brian David Mitchell. He raped her repeatedly until she was rescued nine months later. (Mitchell is serving a life sentence in federal prison. His accomplice, Wanda Barzee, was released from prison in 2018.)
Smart said that when she “jerked awake,” the man did not acknowledge what had happened. She reported the assault to Delta — which, she said, she does not blame — and followed up with the FBI. There is an “ongoing investigation."
“I don't want him to be preying on other girls,” Smart said. “I mean, it's not Delta's fault. It was this man.”
In the months since the assault, Smart said she began training in self-defense. And that led to a program she’s calling Smart Defense to train other women and girls.
Smart said that, had she been trained in self-defense, it would “probably not” have prevented her from being kidnapped. But, she added, she might have been able to do something as Mitchell forced her along “over three miles of terrain” to his hidden campsite.
“There’s a part of me that thinks had I had this kind of training beforehand, I feel like I would have taken that opportunity during those three miles somewhere.”
King interviewed Smart at her Park City home and accompanied her to a Smart Defense class. One of the women there was Lois Smart, Elizabeth’s mother.
“She’s remarkable,” Lois Smart said of her daughter. “She’s a strong woman who survived hardships, but to look at her now, you would never know she went through anything.”