Elizabeth Smart reveals details of assault, and what she’s doing about it

Feb 7, 2020, 2:28 PM | Updated: 4:55 pm
Elizabeth Smart discusses her recent experience on an airplane, and what she is doing to make sure ...
Elizabeth Smart discusses her recent experience on an airplane, and what she is doing to make sure other women can defend themselves. (Photo credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Photo credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — Elizabeth Smart is talking about a recent assault, but not the assault that happened during her childhood.

She says that last summer, she jerked awake and then froze when she felt a man’s hand rubbing her inner thigh. The two were sitting side by side on an airplane.

“I waited for him to say something, or give some excuse,” she told KSL Newsradio.

“He just looked at me and left his hand on my leg. I sat there in shock. I just froze.”

She said that when he didn’t remove his hand or even apologize, she picked up his hand and put it back over the armrest to his seat.

“The rest of the flight I sat there torn. I was angry that it had happened to me, but I also kept thinking, ‘what do I do now? What do I do now?'”

Smart said the FBI knows the name of the man who was seated on that flight. Their investigation is ongoing.

Reaction similar to childhood kidnapping

Her experience last summer reminded her of her reaction when she was kidnapped by Brian David Mitchell in 2002 when she was 14 years old. Frozen by shock.

She says that ever since that flight last summer she’s felt ashamed, angry, and guilty that she didn’t scream or do something.

So now, she’s doing something about it.

Recent assault motivated Smart to help others

The airplane assault gave Smart new motivation and drive to empower other women and girls. She says that’s why she decided to share the story of what happened on the airplane.

“I’m sick of being a victim, and I’m sick of everyone else being a victim,” she told KSL Newsradio.

After the airplane assault, Smart says a friend taught her a few self-defense moves. Then together they developed a line of self-defense classes through the Elizabeth Smart Foundation. The ten-week classes offer a mix of different techniques and fighting methods and are taught with the help of law enforcement.

Self-defense and beyond

Even after each ten-week course is over, Smart wants the women and girls to stay connected and up-to-date with the skills and knowledge they acquired.

So she’s planning a series of workshops, podcasts, and other ways to talk about the issues of consent, boundaries and healthy relationships. It will be called “Smart Talks.”

And Smart wants other sexual assault victims to know something important.

“They did nothing wrong. It’s not their fault for whatever happened. If they froze, that is a completely natural instinct,” she said.

And she wants her three children to know something even more important.

“First, nobody has the right to touch you or hurt you or threaten you. If anyone does, it is not your fault. And no matter what happens to you, I will always love you,” she said.

Further reading

Elizabeth Smart’s attorney says kidnapper’s release is a tragedy

OPINION: With Wanda Barzee’s release, don’t forget Elizabeth Smart


We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team. here.

Today’s Top Stories


Baby Formula Shortagae...
Aubri Wuthrich

Shortage of baby formula continues to worry parents

While the baby formula shortage has improved since earlier this year, experts say there still isn't enough.
1 day ago
A Utah doctor says Americans should not avoid a preventative test for colon cancer, despite a recen...
Simone Seikaly

After celebrity death to colon cancer, Utah doctor weighs in on colonoscopy

Colon cancer and colonoscopies are in the news after the death of actress Kirstie Alley to colorectal cancer.
1 day ago
A woman wishing not to be identified shows her sadness after the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake ran ou...
Waverly Golden

Expert joins Inside Sources on women accessing homeless resources

Emily Darowski, Associate Director for the Utah Women and Leadership Project, discusses a recent study the project conducted on women accessing homeless resources in Utah.
2 days ago
KSL NewsRadio's Dave & Dujanovic discuss how to deal with and overcome seasonal depression....
Mark Jones

How to deal with and overcome seasonal depression

KSL NewsRadio's Dave & Dujanovic discuss how to deal with and overcome seasonal depression.
2 days ago
a small boy recieves a COVID-19 vaccine in China...
JOE McDONALD Associated Press

China eases anti-COVID measures following protests

Experts warn, however, that restrictions can’t be lifted completely until at least mid-2023 because millions of elderly people still must be vaccinated.
2 days ago
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19:  The U.S. Capitol is shown as a looming government shutdown threatens ...
Manu Raju and Phil Mattingly, CNN

Defense bill likely to include end to military Covid vaccine mandate, source says

A massive bill setting defense policy is likely to end the military Covid vaccine mandate, a source familiar with the negotiations tells CNN.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Elizabeth Smart reveals details of assault, and what she’s doing about it