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In an interview with Broadly Smart discusses purity culture and fights to change how we talk about sex, rape and abstinence.
It’s been 14 years since Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her bedroom by Brian David Mitchell and held captive and repeatedly raped for nine months.
Smart said that being raised in a deeply religious household that held abstinence in high esteem made dealing with the traumatic experience so much worse.
“I did make that promise to myself that I was going to wait until marriage before I had sex, well then I was kidnapped and I was raped, and one of the first thoughts I had was, no one is ever going to want to marry me now: I’m worthless, I’m filthy, I’m dirty. I think every rape survivor feels those same feelings, but having that pressure of faith compounded on top – it was almost crippling.”
Smart credits her faith in aiding her through her harrowing time with Mitchell however she is now speaking out against the ties between self worth and sex that religions focus so heavily on.
“I think the power of faith is amazing, the hope and the healing it can bring to people, but I also think there’s another side of it that can be potentially very harmful, especially when a lot of religions teach that sexual relations are meant for marriage. It’s so stressed that girls in particular tie their worth to their virginity, or, for lack of a better word, purity.”
After her nine months from hell, Smart was made to sit in religious seminary classes and listen to her teachers preach “terrible analogies” as she describes them.
“You’re like this beautiful fence, and you hammer these nails in and then every time you have sex with someone else, it’s like you’re hammering in another nail. And you can take them out, you can repent of them, but the holes are still there.”
She said that no one should use these analogies, period “especially for someone who’s been raped, they’ve already felt these feelings of worthlessness, of filth, of just being so crushed.”
“People need to realize there is nothing that can detract from your worth, when it comes to rape and sexual violence and abuse, that can never detract from who you are.”