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Surviving Abuse: Elizabeth Smart's advice



Elizabeth Smart is a survivor, and her story has provided guidance and solace to scores of people that have lived through trauma. At the Jimmy Doolittle Center this past Wednesday, a crowd of Airmen, civilians and spouses listened as she told her own story of abuse and how she has dealt with it.

“At the age of 14, I was kidnapped,” Smart said. “I was led out of my house with a blade to my throat and was held captive for nine months.”

On March 12, 2003, Smart was rescued and reunited with her family.

“Since that time, I worked to become an advocate for survivors,” she said.

Smart has fought extensively for victims’ rights over the years. Recently, she has been trying to create a culture shift in how violence and sexual abuse is thought about.

“Some people feel like [the victims] might have asked for it or deserved it in some way,” she said. “They think it might have been their fault because of a low-cut shirt, or maybe they were flirting, or somehow they had communicated that they wanted it and then they didn’t want it anymore.”

The recovery process after a sexual assault may be long and arduous, but for those who have been affected, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team know how to help.

When it comes to sexual assault, people need to treat it with the utmost respect,” said Capt. Holly Schlotfeldt, 5th Bomb Wing deputy SAPR coordinator.“When someone comes through our door, we make sure their story is heard and understood. We get them the help they need and provide options based on their specific situation.”

Schlotfeldt said not everyone experiences the same trauma, so each survivor’s needs have to be tailored.

“Every case is different,” Schlotfeldt said. “We want to help them in any way we can based on the individual’s experiences. We want to empower them and get them to back to that baseline, where they have that feeling of hope.”

Schlotfeldt also said depending on the event, the aftermath could be worse.

“It’s great to have people like Mrs. Smart to share her story at the JDC,” said Schlotfeldt. “She helps victims who have been struggling with internal problems, like night terrors or flashbacks. They’re struggling with these normal problems in an abnormal situation.”

And this is mirrored in Smart’s sentiments.

Smart said. “I want the victim, first and foremost, to know that this is not their fault. I want them to know that they’re not alone, there are so many other survivors out there. These are topics that people feel scared or shameful to talk about, but that’s not true. It shouldn’t make you feel less like of a person.”

If you or a loved one has been affected by sexual assault, the SAPR office is available to provide help at (701)-723-7272. You can also reach their 24/7 crisis line at (701)-340-8882.

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