I've been following the Elizabeth Smart trial news, just like everyone else. I remember the night she was kidnapped from her bedroom, and how I heard the news and then held my little baby in my arms and was scared for the world he was inheriting.
So, following all that, I think Elizabeth Smart is a wonderfully brave woman and definitely a hero. And I think she's lucky.
Not because such awful things happened to her, but because she only had to live with them for nine months, and then the bad guy who hurt her got caught, and she gets a chance to publicly tell the world everything he did to her, and he WILL be punished for it, and she knows that. He's not going to get away with it.
Listening to and reading everything about the trial has made me think about a lot of other women--women I personally know--who had to deal with the same kinds of things Elizabeth had to deal with. Women who were treated just as badly, and sometimes much worse.
Women who had no hope of rescue because their abusers were their own parents, not some crazies who kidnapped them.
And women who have no hope of ever seeing their abusers brought to light or justice, and who will never get the satisfaction (or catharsis, or whatever it would be for each of them) of telling the world what horrible things these abusers did because the laws when the abuse happened favored the perpetrators and not the victims.
All of these women (and I can name nearly a dozen without pausing to think or take a breath) not only don't get to see their torturers get punished, they have to continue to interact with them, be civil to them, and continually deal with ongoing emotional abuse long after they have escaped the actual physical clutches of the wicked people who held--and continue to try to hold--them captive. Some of these women had to watch their abusers get old and die without even so much as a slap on the wrist for all the horrible things they did.
So, SO many people like Brian David Mitchell are out there NOT getting caught. Ever.
These women are my heroes.
Because even in the face of NEVER getting justice, or even safety and relief, almost all of them have made wonderful, happy lives for themselves. Pop culture says that abuse will completely, utterly destroy a life, that rape will ruin you forever, and that torture and abuse are things that destroy your soul and prevent you from ever becoming anything or enjoying anything, trapped forever by fear, timidity, drugs, alcohol, bad relationships, etc.
Elizabeth has been a public face proving that's not true. I know some women who were damaged beyond repair. But I know many more who, like Elizabeth Smart, were able to not let the abuse be the defining factor of the rest of their existence.
And the women I know, even knowing they will never get that freedom of seeing their abuser go to jail, they have not only made wonderful lives for themselves--they've learned how to be civil to the people who abused them, how to have relationships with other people, how to love and be loved. And how to be happy. They have learned how to love and trust God even when their earthly fathers taught them only things that would interfere with a relationship with God. They have learned how to pick up and move on, and not let the past destroy the future, despite the damage that other people can do to our souls. They have shown me how idealism and reality can intersect, how religion and life mesh nicely, even when life is "real" and dark and sometimes ugly.
They spend their lives making the world a better, more beautiful place, loving other people, and proving beyond a doubt that we, with Jesus, are never so beaten down that we can't be healed. It's not that the abuse and its effects are erased from their lives. It's that they live fully and happily anyway.
These women are my heroes. Their examples keep me going when I think my life is unbearably tough. Their examples make me a better, stronger, more compassionate person, and I'm glad to know them, grateful for their influences in my life.
I just wish the world could look at Elizabeth Smart and say, "What a great woman," and then remember all the thousands of women and girls who don't get to escape, don't get rescued, and have to live with their captors, and the abuse, forever. It's easy to sit back and say, "Anomaly," when really we need to realize that there are thousands of girls who need our help as much as Elizabeth Smart did, and thousands of men who are getting away with it.
Maybe there's something we can do to stop that.