Elizabeth Smart to speak at ISU to raise awareness about sexual assault

POCATELLO, ID - Sex abuse victim Elizabeth Smart is scheduled to speak in eastern Idaho in December.

Her keynote address will be part of a three-day event called “Surviving Voices,” designed to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence. The event is hosted by Idaho State University’s College of Arts and Letters and will run Dec. 5th through the 8th. 

When she was only fourteen, Smart was taken from her parents’ Salt Lake City home and held captive for nine months by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. During her captivity, she later related, she was sexually abused numerous times. Police rescued Smart on June 2, 2005, in Sandy, Utah -- about eighteen miles from her home -- where she was still being held by the couple.

Barzee was convicted in 2009; Mitchell was convicted the following year and is currently serving a life sentence in a federal prison.

The ISU event will include a documentary screening and dance performances.

All events will be held in ISU’s Frazier Hall in Pocatello and are free and open to the public. Each segment contains adult content, school officials warned. 

The first event will be the screening of the human trafficking documentary “In Plain Sight” on Dec. 5th at 6 p.m. The documentary will be followed by a roundtable discussion with law enforcement officials and representatives from Operation Underground Railroad. 

On Dec. 6th at 4 p.m., Elizabeth Smart, billed as a survivor of sexual assault and physical and emotional violence, will speak about her experiences in captivity. 

Local victim assistance organizations, including Family Services Alliance, will be onsite to provide information and resources. There will also be a question-and-answer session and book signing following the presentation. 

The event is also free and open to the public, but tickets must be reserved beforehand at isu.edu/cal[isu.edu].  

Attendees are encouraged to arrive at least fifteen minutes prior to the event. 

On Dec. 7th at 7:30 p.m., ISU students in dance and theatre will perform “Voices,” with original choreography by artistic director Lenora Lee. The dialogue tells victims’ personal stories of domestic and sexual violence from around the world. 

Before the performance -- at 6:30 p.m. -- Christine Hart, a member of the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, will give a presentation offering her insight to how to combat this issue locally. Following the “Voices” performance, members of the Family Services Alliance and local social workers will be available to talk about issues raised in the performance and ask questions. 

A matinee performance of “Voices” will take place on Dec. 8th at noon. The school says this showing is aimed toward high school students from Pocatello and surrounding areas. 

The Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance will host a booth before and after the performance to provide information targeted at high school students about domestic violence, rape -- and resources they can use to stay safe. 

“Surviving Voices” is being sponsored by ISU’s College of Arts and Letters, Idaho Humanities Council, ISU’s Gender Resource Center, Family Services Alliance, ISU Credit Union, the Puffin Foundation and Mountain View Hospital. 

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