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Elizabeth Smart doc and drama to air on A&E and Lifetime

November 1, 2017 GMT

In 2002, Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her bedroom in Salt Lake City and was held for nine months until she was rescued.

The story of the Utah teen now comes to the small screen on Lifetime and A&E. “I am Elizabeth Smart” is the true story of the abduction of Smart, who was on hand to speak with members of the media recently to discuss the show and her experience.

“I grew up in a conservative Christian home,” Smart explained when asked if the experience changed her views of God. “And having had 14 years of a wonderful family, of coming from a very secure background, having been taught from my parents from as far back as I can remember, to all of a sudden being taken, being told that God commanded them to hurt me, God had been commanded to do all these terrible things to me, that was just sort of night and day for me. So it never changed my view on God because the 14 years prior to that, I’d always been told, ‘You’ll know a person by their actions. No matter what they say, if they’re a good person, they’ll be doing good things.’ And these people weren’t good. They were hurting me. So clearly they weren’t people of God. So that’s, fortunately, how I was able to kind of maintain the separation.”

It was impressive to see how well grounded this young woman is today having gone through such an ordeal. The emotional scars will be with her always, but she seems to have come to terms with her life now.

Smart was on hand during the making of the film.

“It was a pretty surreal experience. I remember first walking into the hair and makeup trailer, and I don’t think I was supposed to go in there yet. But I remember poking my head in, and there was Skeet (Ulrich, who plays kidnapper Brian David Mitchell) getting his hair and makeup done. And I just saw him for, like, half a second. I was, like, ‘Oh, my gosh, that looks just like him.’ ”

She added, “It was such a surreal experience because I was sitting there looking at him and thinking, ‘You look like the devil. You look like the worst human being I know. But I know you’re not him, and you’re being so nice. This is so weird.’ It was a really surreal experience, but I’m really glad that I went.”

For her to come face to face with the character of the man who changed her life forever was definitely emotional for her.

“I will say that it is the best worst movie I’ve ever seen,” Smart confessed. “I mean, I think it’s so well done. I think it was accurate. I’m very proud of it, but at the same time, part of me thinks I’ll be happy if I never have to watch it again.”

She said that she made herself watch it, but now she doesn’t want to relive that experience again.

When Smart was asked how she adjusted to returning home after such a horrific ordeal, she explained, “When I got home, I immediately just wanted to pick up my life where I’d left off from. I immediately wanted to see my friends again. I wanted to go back to school. I think my parents were much more apprehensive about me picking life back up where I’d left off. And it took me, actually, quite a while to realize that I couldn’t. It wasn’t possible. I’d go to the grocery store, and I’d have people approach me all the time. I go to Costco still now, and what should be 45 minutes usually turns into an hour and 20 minutes. Everything just takes longer. And that was probably the hardest part of readjusting back to life, was having everyone feel like they know me and me not knowing anybody. And having been quite a shy girl my entire life, all the attention was really quite overwhelming.”

Today Smart is very involved in advocacy and helping others deal with traumatic experiences. Because she was kidnapped and abused by strangers, this made returning to life in Utah easier. She acknowledged that many people are abused by people they know, which adds an extra burden to the victim and the families involved.

“Well, I feel like I need to speak out because I can, because mine was a stranger. I don’t have to go home every day and see a picture of the man that kidnapped me, of the woman that sat there and watched me being abused. I don’t have to see that every single day, whereas so many do. And they need to know that what happened to them, they don’t deserve it. They don’t need to keep their mouth shut. They deserve to be happy. They deserve to be safe. Nobody deserves to be hurt. And so I have felt as I’ve gone on more and more into this world that I feel like I do need to share my story for that very reason.”

Listening to Smart is encouraging and even uplifting. She has clearly taken a terrible experience, lived through it, and come out the other end with maturity and faith. She is an exceptional woman, to say the least.

A two-part special, “Elizabeth Smart: Autobiography,” premieres Nov. 12 on A&E. Smart narrated “I am Elizabeth Smart” which premieres on Lifetime on Nov. 18.

Smart, a graduate of BYU, is now an activist, harpist, and crusader for victims. She is married with two children and penned her book, ”My Story” in 2013. More information about Smart can be found on her website: elizabethsmart.com.