Abduction survivor and child safety activist Elizabeth Smart offered advice to young women about staying safe, and the biggest “red flag” that family and friends should be looking out for in recognizing trouble.
When she was 14 years old, Smart was abducted from her family’s home in Salt Lake City, Utah, by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee. She was rescued in the nearby suburb of Sandy nine months later. Smart shared what she’s learned in the years since her escape and in the wake of the grisly murders at the University of Idaho, a case which remains unsolved.
“Your safety should always be a priority,” Smart said in an interview with Fox News Digital. “And trust your gut. No matter what it is. If it’s a party, there will be another party. If it’s a date, and you don’t feel safe, don’t worry about offending your date. Your safety should be a priority. Don’t take chances when it comes to your safety.”
“Make sure you have a plan before you go meet up with someone that you’ve never met,” she continued. “Or maybe you have met someone and something happens. Think about what you would do in different scenarios. Talk about it with your family. Talk about it with your friends. Build your support network. Talk to them about what you’re doing. Let people be involved in your life.”
One of the “biggest red flags,” Smart said family and friends should be able to identify, is when someone is isolating themselves.
“When they’re cutting off what should be important relationships,” Smart said. “That is a red flag of abuse. That’s a red flag of domestic violence. That’s a red flag of human trafficking, when meaningful relationships are being cut off and a person is becoming isolated. I would say that’s just about a red flag for anything. So make sure you are keeping this conversation going. And just remember, when your safety is a priority, popularity is not worth putting yourself at risk. Job advancement not worth putting yourself at risk. Being safe. That is a priority.”
Smart isn’t just giving out advice. The safety advocate recently partnered with Portland-based tech company Q5id to launch the “Guardian” mobile app nationwide to help quickly locate missing children and adults. If someone goes missing, a subscriber can send out an alert received by every other Guardian app user nearby.
Smart said she “100 percent” feels empathy for the loved ones of the Idaho college murder victims as they await answers about the killings, and any families who may be suffering in the same situation.
“I’ve met so many families over the last 20 years who have children who’ve just vanished and no trace of them could ever be found,” she said. “As I’ve spoken to my own parents about it, they’ve said, ‘The worst part while you were gone, was just the not knowing. Was just not knowing if you were alive, or if you were dead, or if you were in pain, or if you were warm. Just not knowing. That’s honestly what was killing us.'”
Smart admitted that, for her, having survived her ordeal, it’s often a “heartbreaking situation” to face struggling families who may look at her as a symbol of hope.
“And as I’ve met these other families like I can just see so clearly, like it’s honestly a heartbreaking situation for me to be in because I see them looking at me and I know they’re so happy for me. And on some level it gives them hope that maybe their missing child will come home. But on the flip side I also know that they’re also looking at me wishing that I was their child… And my heart just breaks for those families who are just still lost, that don’t have any closure to their story.”
Smart said she envisions the Guardian app helping create a “village of safe people” in communities across the country.