By Janelle Hanson, communications specialist, University Marketing & Communications

ASUU invited Elizabeth Smart to speak on campus this past Friday, sharing her story with students. She said it’s easy to be overwhelmed by struggles, but don’t let what happens to you define who you are. You define who you are. It’s how we react. It’s what we do next.

“To some, I will always will be that girl who was kidnapped, but I’m so much more,” Smart said. “Bad things happen to good people.”

As she began recalling details of terrifying night she was taken from her home at knifepoint, she said she thought he was going to kill her. She was taken far up into the foothills behind her Salt Lake City home where a camp was set up hidden from view.

“He told me I was going to be his wife,” she said. “He raped me, got up, smiled and walked out of the tent like it wasn’t a big deal. My religion pushed the importance of waiting until marriage and I felt destroyed and like my family wouldn’t want me.”

Smart shared how she’s spoken to many sexual assault victims over the years who have had similar feelings and often blamed themselves. Her response: “What’s important is there’s a difference between sex and rape. Rape can come from anywhere — friend, spouse. Anytime sex is not consensual, that’s rape. It’s not OK,” she said. “There’s no circumstance that will ever make it OK. It doesn’t matter if you’re drunk and you say ‘yes, yes, yes.’ The minute you say ‘no,’ it’s not OK.”

Her story of survival has inspired many victims to speak out and Smart said still has her good days and her bad days, but that “It’s OK to feel pain. It’s OK to feel whatever emotion you feel, but don’t give up, don’t surrender. Have happiness be your end goal.”

If you were unable to attend the event, here is a link to the live stream.