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Park City • It doesn't feel so long ago that Elizabeth Smart's daughter started walking. But now they're contemplating a Halloween costume for the not-yet-2-year-old and as she gets older, life only gets scarier.
"It's terrifying," Smart says. "I don't really see the world getting any better."
There are plenty of good people in the world, she notes, but from her own experience, and from her work as a correspondent for "Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen," she knows that's not always enough.
Kidnapped at age 14 in 2002 from her family's home in Salt Lake City, Smart was held captive for nine months by Brian David Mitchell, who raped her repeatedly.
For half her life, the 28-year-old has worn the labels "kidnapping victim" and "rape survivor." She struggled with that initially and still does, some days but has mostly embraced the role of advocating and being a voice for victims.
People turn to her all the time, she says, to share stories of their own attacks, often things they've never told anyone else.
"I'm always reminded that there's a big need for this," she says. Rape and sexual assault are not isolated events that happen once in awhile, she says, and they're life-changing for victims, who need support to address their grief, pain and anger.
But because so many people don't believe rape can happen to them or to someone they love, that's something too few people understand, Smart says as evidenced by some reactions to a video showing Donald Trump talking about kissing and groping women without their consent.
"The worst part about it is listening to people trying to belittle it, just saying, 'Well, it's locker-room talk, it's locker-room banter,' " she says. "Anyone belittling sexual violence, sexual abuse, they're doing a huge disservice to victims of violent crimes, violent sexual abuse. There's no justifying it ever."
Instead, she says, people need to talk seriously about the realities of rape, and educate others about their own self-worth and about consent.
"Especially for girls in Utah, that would be great, because I know I was raised to be kind, to be polite," she says. "You didn't say no, you only said yes. I wish the word 'no' was emphasized. 'No' is a good word to say every now and again, especially when it comes to your personal well-being."
And while abstinence-focused teachers in public schools and on Sundays might not intend to be cruel, tying a person's value to sexual cleanliness is harmful.
"When I was first raped, I didn't realize there was a difference between rape and sex," she says. "Immediately, in my little 14-year-old mind when that happened, I thought, 'I'm impure. Who will ever want to marry me now?' If my parents knew what happened, would they even want me back, or would they think, 'Good thing we had six kids 'cause we still have five others'?"
Smart says her No. 1 goal is for her own daughter to know that she's loved unconditionally. And that if she's scared, if she feels threatened, to fight back with the knowledge that her mother will be there to back her up whether that's in a courtroom, a police station or just the principal's office.
"As much as I want to isolate and protect my daughter from the world, I know that would not be doing her any favors," Smart says.
It can be a tempting prospect, especially as "Crime Watch Daily" host Chris Hansen in Park City for an upcoming episode about Smart's role on the show as victim advocate and special correspondent rattles off social networks that kids use and predators exploit.
The advice used to be "keep the computer in a safe place in the house," he says. "Those days are gone. The computers are sitting in a kid's pocket."
When he was on "To Catch a Predator," which ran from 2004 to 2007, Hansen focused just on AOL and Yahoo chat rooms. But the explosion of social media and the ubiquity of smartphones means he has to be up on all of the latest social networks Snapchat, Kik, Whisper for his "Hansen vs. Predator" segment on "Crime Watch Daily."
Thursday's episode of the daily syndicated program airing in Utah on Fox 13 at 2 p.m. features a story of Smart's, on a spate of kidnappings in the Cleveland area this summer, believed to be the work of one man.
A 6-year-old girl was held for 17 hours, and a 10-year-old fought off her attacker as he tried to snatch her through her bedroom window. Though investigators have released surveillance footage of the suspect, there have been no leads.
"It's like he's just vanished into thin air," Smart says. "The FBI is concerned he may have possibly moved on to a different area. That just makes it all the more important to get this story out there, to make sure we catch him."
Smart sat down with the parents of the two girls to talk about their experience, which she says is nerve-wracking but also exciting and a bit like "being in a parallel universe," given how many times she's been the subject of interviews and media coverage.
"I never want anyone to walk away and feel like I have just violated them, because I certainly know how that feels," she says.
"But I also want them to know that it is important to share their story, to talk about it, because that's what's going to lead to a guy being caught a greater good."
Her own story might have had a different ending if it weren't for the news coverage of her nine-month ordeal, she says.
"People probably had it emblazoned on the back of their eyelids," she says. "That's what led to my rescue, because then when people saw me out walking on State Street, they called the police."