Elizabeth Smart speaks at ISU during week of ‘Surviving Voices’


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POCATELLO — Elizabeth Smart took the stage to tell her story Wednesday during an Idaho State University awareness campaign.

The university’s College of Arts and Letters is hosting a week of events to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence. The program is entitled “Surviving Voices” and runs from Dec. 5 to 8.

Events included documentary screenings, dance performances and a keynote address by Elizabeth Smart. Smart spoke at the Joseph C. and Cheryl H. Jensen Grand Concert Hall in the L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center.

Hundreds attended the sold-out event to hear Smart’s keynote address. She shared her experience of surviving her own abduction in June of 2002 and being a victim of sexual assault. Smart was held captive and sexually abused for nine months before being found and rescued.

Prior to her speaking, a news conference was held with Smart.

“Sexual violence is one of those taboo topics that has, up until recently, has been very hard to address in homes, in families, in communities,” Smart said during the conference. “They don’t really know what to do about it. Today as we’re hearing more and more all of these allegations of sexual violence… We are in a moment, that this is huge, this is so important. We can’t allow this just to disappear to melt away like it has basically every time in the past.”

Smart encourages parents and families to have conversations about sexual violence with their kids in an appropriate manner. She said the three things she tells parents to talk about with their children are that they’re loved unconditionally, no one has the right to hurt, threaten or scare them, and if they are hurt they should tell their parents who will believe and support them.

“This is an opportunity for us to bring these conversations into our homes, to start having these conversations with kids, and of course make it age appropriate, by talking about what’s okay, what’s not okay,” Smart said.

Smart said she regards both men and women who’ve survived sexual abuse as strong. Smart wants every survivor to know, the word survivor isn’t diminishing.

For young men who have been victims of sexual violence, Smart had a message for them, she told EastIdahoNews.com, “The word survivor to me it doesn’t mean weak it doesn’t mean less than, it doesn’t mean tainted in any way. To me, when I hear the hear the word survivor I think of strong,” Smart said. “I want them to know that they’re strong and I want them to know what’s happened to them is not their fault. I want them to know it doesn’t make them any less of a man, it doesn’t make them any less macho if you will… I want them to know that there is no shame in coming out and speaking about what’s happened to them… We need more men to come forward to talk about what’s happened.”