Elizabeth Smart: Smart Advice for Survivors


Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth Smart

How do we put the Humpty Dumpty pieces of our shattered lives back together after horrific abuse?

Anderson Cooper recently asked Elizabeth Smart if she had any advice for Jaycee Dugard.  Some critics have said that the nine months Elizabeth spent in captivity were nothing compared to the experiences of Jaycee being held captive for 18 years.  While this is true, I think we need to remember that Jaycee has no surviving role models.  And, healing from the Complex-PTSD that arises after a person experiences a series of traumatic events requires us all to travel along a similar path. 

Respect a Person’s Right to Privacy

The most important point that Elizabeth made is that we need to curb our curiosity and respect Jaycee’s right to privacy.

Each time we ask our questions, we put people like Jaycee back into their nightmares.  We force them to relive something they’d probably like to forget.

Relax and Reconnect

After an horrific experience, how do we start in picking up the pieces?  Elizabeth told Anderson Cooper that her family went on vacation together and spent time being a family again:

. . .relax and enjoy your family and spend some time reconnecting. . .think back and think of things that [you] enjoyed doing with [your] family. . .going out and doing them again, and finding new things [you] would want to do with [your] family.

Move Forward

No matter how horrid our experiences might be they don’t define who we are as a person.  Nobody asks to be kidnapped or raped.  If we spend our lives looking at the rearview mirror, however, sooner or later we’re going to hit a brick wall.  Elizabeth has good advice:

. . .set goals for yourself to continually be moving forward, continuing on with your life and not letting this horrible event take over and consume the rest of your life. . .we only have one life and it’s a beautiful world out there. . .so many things to see and learn and grow. . .find different passions in life and continually push forward and learn more and reach more for them and not to look behind. . .

Anderson Cooper had some sage wisdom of his own for all of us:

It’s something that happened to you its not who you are.

Note:  Anderson Cooper survived stalking.

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4 responses to “Elizabeth Smart: Smart Advice for Survivors

  1. According to E. Smart and her family, she has never -not once- experienced any sign of having suffered trauma and rapes four times a day. Instead, Elizabeth and her family have insisted that she won’t allow her experience ‘to affect her or to define her life.’ I have news for Elizabeth and her family –when a child or young teen is traumatized with a knife, confined, abused and raped four times daily, they do not have a CHOICE to just ‘let it go.’ One cannot simply “choose” to not be affected by rape and trauma. When E. Smart and her family publicly announce that she has “chosen” to put it all in the past, it is like a slap in the face to every victim of child rape and abuse who suffer and struggle daily to stop themselves from taking their own life, or who wish for death because the physical symptoms and psychological problems are so overwhelming and debilitating that they feel it would be better to die.

    If Elizabeth Smart has gone through some or many physical and emotional problems from her ordeal, then she had darn better stop going around telling other survivors, especially Jaycee Lee Dugard, to ‘not allow it to affect you’ because when she says this, she is giving rotten advice and making other survivors feel inferior, and as if something is wrong with them for experiencing all the terrible symptoms and mental health issues that they live with on a daily basis.

    And as far as Anderson Cooper “surviving stalking” So what? A grown man survived a stalker….incomparable to child sexual abuse, rape and trauma. “It’s something that happened to you its not who you are.” is merely a cliche’

  2. Wow! This has obviously hit a painful nerve for you. I am so sorry for your pain.

    Complex PTSD isn’t fun for anybody who experiences it, and it certainly doesn’t help that there aren’t viable treatment protocols to guide us in our recovery.

    Please note that I said US. I am profoundly disabled by Complex PTSD. This web site, in many respects, is my attempt to share what I know as we all struggle to find something that works.

    As for Elizabeth Smart, my sense is that the “choice” language is largely reflective of their religious beliefs.

    While I agree that we all have a “choice” in how we respond to circumstances, I hear you big time that someone in the middle of a PTSD episode typically is so overwhelmed by flashbacks to the original trauma(s) that suggesting making a rational choice is about as irrational as telling someone who is drowning to “just swim” to safety. Gimme a break.

    And, I fully appreciate how you feel when anybody minimizes the rape of a child. I foam at the mouth and frequently turn purple with rage.

    Thanks for leaving your comment. I hope you will come back to check out my posts on Complex PTSD and leave comments about what works and doesn’t work for you in your recovery process.

  3. Smart’s advice, in particular and her overall message, is actually terrible. I agree with the first commenter about how she is dismissive of everything associated with her (alleged) trauma, which is extremely damaging to vulnerable audiences that do not brush off torture like a choice. She not only shows no signs of trauma, but says she has no signs of trauma. So it does beg the question: was there actually a trauma? Or is she in extreme denial while preaching dangerous words to large audiences?

    Conclusion: Smart’s advice is purposely vague, and when you look for specific commentary from her point of view, it’s downright harmful.

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