The Truth About Wrongdoing, for the Right Reason

 The Truth About Wrongdoing, for the Right Reason

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart.

Thousands of children go missing each year, and in 2002, Elizabeth Smart was one of them. Smart was 14 when she was kidnapped from her Utah bedroom by Brian David Mitchell; she was found by police nine months later, less than 20 miles from her home. Over the past decade, she has been criticized for not attempting to escape, including one time when the pair were stopped by a police officer and Smart didn’t ask for help.

Now 25, Smart hit the media circuit this week to promote her memoir, My Story, which chronicles her horrific abduction. She says that the reason she’s telling “100 percent” of what happened to her in captivity, which included being raped daily, is because she wants to show other victims of sexual abuse that they can lead normal lives afterward.

She also wants readers to understand children’s mindsets in such circumstances.  Abused children are often brainwashed by their tormentors, she says. “I was a little girl,” Smart told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I had seen this man successfully kidnap me, he successfully chained me up, he successfully raped me, he successfully did all of these things. What was to say that he wouldn’t kill me…what was to say that he wouldn’t kill my family?”

Let’s be frank: a candid accounting of Smart’s ordeal will no doubt boost sales for her book. But Smart’s interviews also reveal a thoughtful, composed, and well-adjusted young woman with more than just a lurid story to tell.

THE PR VERDICT:  “B” (Good Show) for Elizabeth Smart, whose dark cloud has a silver lining for victims of similar abuse.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Good intentions can equal good PR. Smart has spoken about her kidnapping in the past, but it’s taken her more than a decade of reflection to tell her story. That lends credibility to the notion that she’s not just interested in making a buck. Her motivations for speaking now, and in such detail, seem genuine. From a PR perspective, Elizabeth Smart is a victim no more.

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Christine Walton Brennan About Christine Walton Brennan

Christine Walton Brennan is the former Head of Corporate Communications for Marsh & McLennan Companies. She also managed media relations at banking giants UBS and Merrill Lynch, and was a journalist with Bloomberg News. In 2011, Christine embraced her midlife "realization" and is now a Registered Nurse in New York's Hudson Valley.

What is Your PR Verdict?

  1. Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard, the three Cleveland women are testaments to women’s indominitability in the face of great mortal danger. And, isn’t it wonderful that none of these young women cashed in on the media madness? They have maintained their dignity, their truth and their enormous courage, and should teach the Kardashians of this world what true grit is. There are others to be commended who have exhibited the same “quiet” courage, and we thank and honor them. And, now let’s add to this list, the possible finding of young Madeleine McCann, may she be added to this list of genuine heroines.

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