Don’t Stand So Close to Me: On Not Hearing Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth Smart made headlines this month when she advocated for human trafficking survivors at a conference hosted by Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Smart this year – I made her kidnapping (or rather Jon Krakauer’s treatment of Smart’s captivity in his inexorable Under the Banner of Heaven) the focal point of a national conference paper and a key element of my dissertation chapter on anti-Mormon religious intolerance. But I missed that she’d spoken at this conference until the blogosphere erupted over her alleged condemnation of abstinence-based sex education.

During her 13 minute presentation, Smart recounted the details of her captivity and emphasized the need to teach children that they have intrinsic worth, regardless of how others might abuse or exploit them. She further noted that “one of the questions that is most commonly asked [of her] is ‘well, why didn’t you run away? Why didn’t you yell? Why didn’t you scream?’”

This question immediately raised the hackles of my inner humorless feminist, who was already riled after a year of teaching Women’s and Gender Studies 101. This question, as Smart notes, is common – an almost knee-jerk refrain when people feel survivors didn’t resist their own exploitation and abuses enough.

Read the rest of this story at juvenileinstructor.org
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