Elizabeth Smart, the Salt Lake City girl freed in 2003 after nine months in captivity, says tormentors use sexual violence to devalue the victim’s individual worth, making them feel they have to remain under their captor’s protection. Speaking at a human trafficking forum at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore last week, Ms. Smart said her captor reduced her to feeling like “a chewed up piece of gum.
“Nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away. And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value. Why would it even be worth screaming out? … Your life still has no value,” said Smart, who is now an advocate for victims of sexual violence.
The possibility that at least one of the Cleveland women had a child during her captivity could add new and complicated dimensions to her recovery. The situation appears to echo that of Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped in 1991 at age 11 and held in captivity for 18 years in Antioch, Calif., during which time she gave birth to two children.
When victims are raped and conceive children, “the child may serve as a possible reminder of the perpetrator, trigger memories of him, and of those experiences,” says Ms. Berthold.
Yet children can also help victims cope, she adds. “The child may have bonded in a very positive way with the mother in giving them her a sense of purpose to stay alive.”