Sherri Papini’s astonishing and emotional story of being found on Thanksgiving morning on the side of the road after authorities say she was kidnapped and tormented for three weeks is one that kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart can identify with.
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Smart, now 29-years-old, married and an advocate for victims of abuse, was just 14 when she was abducted from her Salt Lake City home and held captive for nine months. Weighing in on Papini’s ordeal, she told ABC News that the California mom will have to create a whole new sense of normal for herself in order to heal.
“It’s really important for people to realize that when a victim comes back, whatever they did, they did to survive,” she said.
Smart explained what kept her going during her own ordeal.
“I found my one thing that I could hold onto no matter what that my captors couldn’t take away or change, was my family,” she said. “And I imagine the same would be true for Sherri. I would imagine that she held onto them. She survived for them.”
Longtime victims' advocate John Walsh, the former host of “America’s Most Wanted” and co-founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, also weighed in on the case and the road to recovery.
“It’s a desensitizing, mind-breaking experience,” he said. “People have to be patient. Be patient with these victims because they’ve been through hell.”
Smart had some additional advice.
“I would suggest to Sherri to focus on herself, focus on her family, focus on healing,” she said. “You never go back to normal. You have to find a new normal.”