SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah nonprofit that seeks to empower women can count on Elizabeth Smart as one of its supporters.
Smart was a featured speaker Thursday at an event in Salt Lake City for Fight Like Girls, The Deseret News reported.
Smart was 14 when she kidnapped at knifepoint from her Salt Lake City bedroom in 2002. She was held for nine months and was repeatedly sexually assaulted and threatened with death. Her kidnappers took her to California but later returned to Utah, where the girl was found and rescued.
Smart has since started the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to protect children and educate them about violent and sexual crimes.
“We’re not defined by what happens to us,” she said. “We’re defined by the decisions that we make.”
Fight Like Girls was started by Breann “Bre” Lasley, who survived a September 2015 attack in her home by a recently paroled convict.
Police shot and killed 48-year-old Robert Richard Berger after he stabbed her and had his legs wrapped around her.
Lasley told the crowd of 300 that she dealt with depression and anxiety after the attack. With Fight Like Girls, Lasley aims to direct women to resources specific to their individual needs. Lasley said she needed exercise and to launch the organization to help her reclaim a sense of normalcy. For Smart, it was horseback riding and a loving family.
Beth Dean, who was diagnosed with an incurable heart disease five years ago, said hearing Lasley’s story has given her hope.
“If she can make it through what she went through,” she said after Thursday’s event, “then why can’t I?”