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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

Elizabeth Smart-Gilmour addresses human trafficking forum in South Dakota

By Regina Garcia Cano, Associated Press

Published: Thu, Aug. 14 12:00 a.m. MDT

 Elizabeth Smart-Gilmour speaks on overcoming adversity and her story of being kidnapped when she was 14, during a conference on violent crime and human trafficking held in Sioux Falls, S.D., Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014.

Elizabeth Smart-Gilmour speaks on overcoming adversity and her story of being kidnapped when she was 14, during a conference on violent crime and human trafficking held in Sioux Falls, S.D., Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014.

(Elisha Page, Associated Press)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A woman who was held captive for nine months has underscored the importance of work performed by health care professionals, law enforcement and social workers to rescue and support kidnap victims.

Elizabeth Smart-Gilmour told a South Dakota forum on Wednesday that such work "makes a difference" in the fight against human trafficking and sexual abuse. The conference that ends Thursday aims to raise awareness about human trafficking in the Dakotas, which in North Dakota has been partly fueled by the recent massive influx of workers to the Bakken oil fields.

"People like you brought me back," Smart-Gilmour told the audience.

Smart-Gilmour was taken from her Salt Lake City bedroom in June 2002 at age 14 and held for nine months. Now 26, she described her capture and the repeated sexual assaults she endured. She told how she was moved from Utah to California and constantly threatened with death if she tried to escape.

She stressed that authorities must have protocols in place to deal with rescued victims. Smart-Gilmour recalled how she was handcuffed, taken to the police station and left in a "little room with no windows" right after police officers found her. The situation, she said, did not make her feel comfortable.

Since her rescue, she has started the Elizabeth Smart Foundation to protect children and educate them about violent and sexual crimes.

U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson from South Dakota and U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon from North Dakota are sponsoring the three-day conference. They said human trafficking in the Dakotas involves local victims, not people brought from abroad.

While the Bakken's oil boom has gifted North Dakota with prosperity and population growth in recent years, it has also led to prostitution and human trafficking.

"There's no question that more people equals more crime," Purdon said Wednesday.

Victim advocates in North Dakota have called for the establishment of a shelter for victims of human trafficking in Williston, in the heart of oil country. Victims nowadays can be housed in domestic violence shelters, but these facilities are already strained by an increase in domestic violence also attributed to the population boom.

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1. stevan madrigal
murray, UT,
Aug. 14, 2014

What a brave and talented young lady.
Self - described survivor, not a victim. She does know what she is talking about.

2. Wonder
Provo, UT,
Aug. 15, 2014

Good for you, Elizabeth Smart-Gilmour. You are making a difference in our society and I appreciate it.

3. anti-liar
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 16, 2014

stevan madrigal

"...not a victim..."

Not really sure what that means. A significant part of the reason she is doing so well is her brave and candid acknowledgment of her victimization and the validation for it by society and by the justice system to which she is fully entitled. Others would have instead swept the entire thing under the rug -- ironically in the name of not being a victim. Let us not get confused regarding the meaning of the term.