The recent discovery of three Cleveland women held captive inside a home not far from where their families live has registered plenty of emotions from all corners of the world, including the victims’ families. Even though the healing has already begun, one man who knows all too well what these families are going through says the road to recovery is a long one.
Recently I spoke with Ed Smart, the father of kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, whose abduction case made national headlines in 2002.
Smart said his empathy for the families of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight runs deep.
“There's nothing as wonderful as having the miracle of having your child come home,” he said. “It's truly a gift.”
He said that as expected, it would be an adjustment for these three young ladies to transition into society, but that for every individual person, their move back into normalcy takes a unique path.
“These young women need to realize first and foremost that what happened to them was not their fault and that they have nothing but support around them,” he said.
“They need to reestablish those bonds they had with their family and friends and they need to start feeling better about themselves, because they felt so bad for so long.”
For Ed's daughter Elizabeth, moving on from her ordeal was extremely difficult.
“With Elizabeth, she felt a lot of guilt surrounding the things that happened to her during that time,” Smart explained.
“Her captors tried to make her feel like she was less than the dust of the earth, and with these individuals it's all about manipulation and fear.”
Smart, who was 14 at the time, was taken from her home in suburban Salt Lake City in 2002.
She was subject to numerous horrors such as being threatened, tied, and raped before being found just 18 miles away from home in Sandy, Utah nine months later.
Now an activist for child abduction, Elizabeth Smart said on Good Morning America this past week she was ‘overjoyed' after the Cleveland women were found and the alleged captor was arrested.
Elizabeth’s father Ed, who still lives in Utah, says that there's ‘no one size fits all’ method for getting your life back after such a horrific ordeal.
“The road back to life is different for every person,” he says. “I think Elizabeth said it best when she explained that being a survivor is what you want to be and that they have so much to look forward to in their new life.”
Ed Smart said that he commends the women as well the families and friends of three women held in captivity for their strength and bravery throughout this process. As a man of faith he knows that faith is what got him through the kidnapping of his daughter and that's what will sustain the families of Amanda, Gina, and Michelle as this process continues.
“We just pray and we ask for everyone's prayers for these survivors and their families,” he said.
“I just wish for them to have a happy and wonderful life from here on out.”