Elizabeth Smart was abducted more than 20 years ago. This is her life now.

Elizabeth Smart was just 14 when she was abducted from her bedroom in 2002.

She went through a harrowing nine months in captivity, suffering terrible abuse at the hands of two predators. And though she was eventually rescued, the pain and trauma from Elizabeth's abduction has lived on long after the news cameras were packed away.

Now an adult with children of her own, Elizabeth has opened up about how she gets by each day with her painful past ever present. It has been more than 20 years since the abduction but the memories of what happened back in 2002 have forever shaped her.

Where is Elizabeth Smart now?

In a new interview with PEOPLE magazine, the now 36-year-old opened up about being a proud mum to three children, who she shares with her husband, Matthew Gilmour. 

As a result of her experience, Elizabeth's worry for her kids — Chloe, nine, James, seven, and Olivia, five, is, "never ending", she told the publication.

Elizabeth Smart with her husband and three children. Image: Instagram/@elizabeth_smart_official


But rather than live in fear, she does her best to educate them on how to be safe from potential harm.

"[I] want them to be aware of the world and I want them to be aware of what can happen," she said. "I don't want them to put other people's feelings or emotions over their own safety. I want them to know that their safety is more important to me than worrying about offending someone else."

Elizabeth said that she is probably overly protective of her children, but concedes it's a byproduct of what she went through.

"It probably definitely makes me a little bit more on the paranoid side of things," she says. "And those times that the paranoia comes out, I usually ask them, 'Do you know why I'm the way I am?' And my little boy will be like, 'Yes, you don't want us to get hurt. You want to keep us safe?' I'm like, 'Okay, then don't do that.'"

Watch: Elizabeth Smart speaks out about pornography. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

What happened to Elizabeth Smart?

On an unremarkable Tuesday night in June, 2002, a young Elizabeth lay in her bed.

Earlier that evening, she had attended the Bryant Middle School awards night with her parents, Edward and Lois Smart, and received a number of academic awards. They arrived home later than usual for a school night, and the six Smart children were quickly rushed to bed so they wouldn't be too tired the next day.

But by Wednesday morning, Elizabeth was gone from her bed in the affluent suburb of Federal Heights, Utah.

Some time after midnight, a man named Brian David Mitchell broke into the Smart home, which Edward had carefully locked before going to sleep. He had made the decision, however, not to put the alarm on, because, "if the children got up and moved, it would set the alarm off. And so we just said we're not going to bother with it," Lois would later explain.

Elizabeth woke to hear footsteps, and felt a cold sensation on her cheek. Mitchell, aged 49, threatened Elizabeth with a knife and ushered her out of the bedroom, where she stubbed her toe on a chair. She whimpered in pain, and Mitchell told her, "You better be quiet, and I won't hurt you."

Elizabeth's nine-year-old sister Mary Katherine was also in the room that night, wide awake, and witnessed everything that happened. She later said she had a strange sense that she had heard the man's voice before, but could not place it.


Paralysed with fear, it took her hours to relay what she had seen to her parents.

At first, they were convinced that what Mary Katherine had seen was a bad dream. They rolled out of bed, and discovered Elizabeth was not in her bed. It wasn't until Lois saw that the downstairs screen window had been cut with a knife that she realised Mary Katherine's story was not a nightmare.

Elizabeth spent the early hours of Wednesday morning being marched through a forest by Mitchell, where they eventually reached a camp. Mitchell's wife, Wanda Barzee, was there waiting. Mitchell believed he was a prophet and went by the name 'Immanuel'. He orchestrated a wedding ceremony with Elizabeth and raped her.

For nine months, Elizabeth was routinely raped and drugged. Her captors forced her to drink a great deal of alcohol, and would tether her to a tree. Sometimes, she would go for days without any food. The pair attempted to indoctrinate Elizabeth into their religious beliefs, reminding her every day that he was a "prophet".

How was Elizabeth Smart rescued?

After nine months of torment, abuse and unthinkable actions, Smart was finally rescued after news of her disappearance made headlines around the world. Search efforts swept the country and thousands of volunteers searched the area around the Smarts' home, finding nothing. The family spoke on national television and shared photographs and home videos of their missing daughter.

Then, months after Elizabeth's disappearance, her sister Mary Katherine realised something: the man who had been in the sisters' room that night looked like a man named Immanuel, who had worked as a handyman in the Smarts' home. 


The police soon discovered that his real name was Brian David Mitchell, and in February 2003, his photograph was aired on an episode of America's Most Wanted. One month later, the man was recognised walking down the street, with a young girl wearing a wig and sunglasses. The passerby reported him to police, and less than 24 hours later, Elizabeth Smart was found.

Elizabeth Smart in 2003. Image: Getty.

Where are Elizabeth Smart's captors now?

After Elizabeth's rescue, it wasn't long before her abusers were put on trial. Mitchell, the mastermind of the kidnapping, received two life sentences in 2011, while his wife was given a 15-year sentence for her involvement in the abduction and abuse.


After serving only six years of her sentence in federal prison, Barzee was released in 2018 under strict conditions, which include being forbidden from having any contact with the Smart family, undergoing routine mental health monitoring, and being registered as a sex offender.

Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ilene Barzee. Image: Getty.


When asked by PEOPLE how she felt about Barzee's release, Smart said, "as long as she isn't hurting anybody else and is staying far away from my family there's really nothing I can do".

However, when it comes to Barzee's accomplice, Smart simply hopes he never gets out of prison.

"I just think, no matter what, if he got out, he would be a danger, if not to me than to another young girl," she says. "I think he will always pose a threat."

How does Elizabeth Smart advocate for victims of abuse?

In the two decades since Smart's harrowing ordeal, she's grown up in the public eye while navigating her trauma. While she admits there are still some tough days, she's now dedicated to advocating for other victims of abuse.

She not only shared her story in the moving documentary I Am Elizabeth Smart, but also founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, a nonprofit organisation aimed at "bringing hope and ending the victimisation and exploitation of sexual assault through education, healing, and advocacy".

Through her work, Elizabeth has been able to heal from her experience, and has said that connecting with fellow survivors gives her the inspiration to keep advocating.

"Sharing stories is such a powerful tool for creating education and hopefully for fostering compassion," she says. "My hope is that survivors feel empowered by sharing their stories and they don't feel like it's a part of their life that they have to hide.


"Whenever I meet another survivor, I just feel like there's a moment where we kind of look at each other and we both know like, yeah, you know what it's like, or we've been there... It's almost like being part of a club that you never willingly want to be a part of."

As she continues to stand up for others, Elizabeth says that her journey is still "a work in progress" and that she has "great days and not good days".

But despite it all, it's her family that keeps her moving forward.

"They're the best part of life."

Feature Image: Instagram/@elizabeth_smart_official