A California woman who was allegedly abducted by her mother's boyfriend 10 years ago shouldn't feel pressured to share her story right away, kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart said Thursday. She also urged the public not to question why the woman didn't escape sooner.
“It’s so easy for us to be curious and think, well, why didn’t you escape, why didn’t you run away?” Smart, who was kidnapped at knifepoint from her Utah bedroom when she was 14 years old then held captive for nine months, said on NBC News' "Today" show. “But it’s really important that we don’t ask that question because all the survivor hears is, ‘well you should have done something’ and ‘it’s your fault you were gone so long.’”
The victim told police she had been drugged and kidnapped by Isidro Medrano Garcia, 42, of Bell Gardens, California, in 2004 when she was 15 years old. Garcia then allegedly held the woman captive and sexually assaulted her for a decade, police said. He also said that if she tried to escape, her family would be deported back to their native Mexico.
The woman said Garcia forced her to marry him in 2007, and the two had a child in 2012, police said. The victim tried to run away twice but Garcia caught her and beat her, according to police.
Authorities said the victim "gained the courage to contact the police," after finding her sister on Facebook. Garcia was arrested on Tuesday on charges of kidnap for rape, lewd acts with a minor and false imprisonment, Santa Ana police said.
Smart, 26, is now an advocate for victims of child abduction. She said she understands why it took the victim 10 years to find the courage to come forward.
“For me, having my family threatened was the most terrifying thing for me in my entire ordeal because my family is my world,” Smart said, referring to her own kidnapping nightmare.
Smart said the victim shouldn’t feel the need to discuss her story right away.
"Take all the time you need to find healing, to find happiness to find a new normal in your life to move forward," Smart said.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that Garcia's age is 42, not 41.