BALTIMORE (WJZ)–Rescued kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart shares her powerful story at a conference in Baltimore to end child human trafficking.
Mary Bubala reports Smart says the first step is to teach children their value – no matter what happens to them.READ MORE: Fire Breaks Out At Canton Apartment Building
“I felt like I wasn’t even human anymore, how could anyone want me, love me or care about me?” she said.
Elizabeth Smart brings her powerful story to Baltimore. At just 14, she was abducted from her bedroom by Brian David Mitchell, who abused her for nine months.
Smart’s insight into the mind of a child who’s been taken is a vital part of a forum on child human trafficking at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
Experts say 300,000 U.S. children are at risk of sexual exploitation.
“Why didn’t you run? Or why didn’t you scream? I think it goes even beyond fear. For so many children, especially in sex trafficking, it’s feelings of self-worth. It’s feeling like who would ever want me now? I’m worthless,” Smart said.
As a child T. Ortiz was sexually exploited. Now at age 23, she has become one of the nation’s most effective voices on the sex trafficking of children.READ MORE: 'This Is 10K People Who Have Died' Maryland Woman Shares Story After Mom Dies From COVID-19, Urges People To Get Vaccinated
“At the age of 10, when I met a man who promised that he would care for me and love me and be there in ways that no one was, I believed him,” Ortiz said.
Experts and community leaders, led by the Goldman Sachs Foundation and a White House initiative, are gathering to identify ways to help children and keep them away from exploitation.
“We need to ensure our sisters, our daughters, our brothers, our sons, our cousins, our friends, are protected,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Smart says children need to know stories like hers not just blanket statements about whom and what to avoid.
“Don’t take candy from strangers. Don’t look for lost puppies. If I had been taught more I think perhaps I would have been more prepared, and I think the younger we can educate children the better it is,” Smart said.
Smart says children should be educated that “you will always have value and nothing can change that.”MORE NEWS: ‘This Loss Is Ours As A City’ Baltimore Hockey Team Mourns Two Young Members, Murdered In East Baltimore Shooting
Smart is now 25 years old. She is married and lives in Salt Lake City. She started the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, a program that teaches children to fight back against aggressors.