Kidnapping survivor and children’s advocate Elizabeth Smart appeared on several morning shows Monday to discuss the recent escape and rescue of Wisconsin teen, Jayme Closs.
What a brave, strong, and powerful survivor!!!!” Smart wrote in an Instagram post following Closs’ rescue, which she called a “miracle.” “No matter what may unfold in her story let’s all try to remember that this young woman has SURVIVED and whatever other details may surface the most important will still remain that she is alive.”
Who is Jayme Closs?
Closs, who disappeared in October the same night her parents were shot dead in their home, was discovered in the small wooded community of Gordon last Thursday after flagging down a dog walker, who helped get her to safety. The 13-year-old is believed to be the sole target of suspect Jake Thomas Patterson, 21. Patterson is being held in the Barron County jail on two counts of first-degree homicide for the killing of Jayme’s parents and one count of kidnapping.
While Jayme is free from her three-month-long captivity, the young girl must now adjust to life post-kidnapping, without her parents.
What can we learn from Smart’s survival story?
Appearing on “CBS This Morning,” Smart shared some unique insight from her own experience as a survivor. One key piece of advice she received following her 9 months in captivity came from her mom:
“My mother told me after I returned that what these people had done was terrible, and there weren’t words strong enough to describe how wicked and evil they are. They had stolen nine months of my life that I would never get back. But the best punishment I could give them was to be happy, was to move forward,” she said.
“I think in Jayme’s case, the same is true,” Smart added. “She will not be able to go back to who she was before she was kidnapped. She will never be able to just return to life before. But that doesn’t mean that what has happened needs to destroy her future or needs to define her future.”
WATCH: Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart's advice to 13-year-old Jayme Closs: "The best punishment I could give [my captors] was to be happy, was to move forward." https://t.co/cdZ9c6Pka6 pic.twitter.com/81qP0PgTCO
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 14, 2019
If anyone can understand what Closs is going through right now, it’s Smart, whose own kidnapping story bears a striking resemblance to the young teen’s. Smart, who was 14 when she was kidnapped from her family’s Salt Lake City home in 2002, managed to escape after 9 months of physical and psychological torture. Not only that, but she testified against before her captors, lending a huge hand in their convictions. Her remarkable story of recovery and her work as a public speaker and child advocate has provided Jayme’s family with much hope.
“I want them to know that anything I can do, I am more than happy to help them,” Smart said. “I admire them all and I feel like everyone loves and supports them and wants to help them in every way we can. And at the same time, I think it’s really important that we all give them the space and the privacy that they need to rebuild their foundation right now.”
Will Smart work with the Closs family?
When asked if she would be open to visiting Jayme and potentially helping counsel her through this difficult transition, Smart expressed strong interest.
“I would be happy to meet with Jayme in person, but that being said, if she wants space and she doesn’t want to talk to me, that is completely fine,” she said. “I will never presume to push myself upon anyone.”
Smart also offered some advice for people working to help Jayme during this time:
“I think it’s really important, and as with any victim, to really think about the way that you speak to victims. And if you ask questions, really think about what you’re saying. Because for years whenever people would ask me, ‘Oh, you were brought down in public before, why didn’t you run, and why didn’t you scream?’ For years, my brain didn’t actually hear that question. When it would hear the words ‘Why didn’t you,’ I actually heard, ‘You should have,’ which made me feel guilty, which made me feel like I didn’t do enough to survive, when in fact I’m not ashamed of anything I did because ultimately I survived, and I’m here today. And the same is true of each and every victim.”
“I would want her first and foremost to know that she did nothing wrong – she did absolutely everything right,” Smart said of the “Today” show Monday. “She survived… As big as this feels right now, it doesn’t have to define her life.”
“I would want her first and foremost to know that she did nothing wrong – she did absolutely everything right. She survived… As big as this feels right now, it doesn’t have to define her life.” Elizabeth Smart on what she would tell Jayme Closs pic.twitter.com/ZI2L7aVLME
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 14, 2019
“This could be a part of her life, and certainly, yes, it has changed her life, but it doesn’t have to define it,” she continued. “Ultimately it comes down to the decisions and the choices that you make that define who you are,” — choices that, Smart explained, Jayme was denied during the three months she was held captive.
“She is just incredible,” Smart said of Closs on “CBS This Morning.” “What she has been through and how she was able to escape, she’s truly a hero.”