“For me, because I grew up in a very conservative Christian neighborhood, the first time I was raped I remember feeling devastated,” Smart, who was abducted in 2002 at age 14 and held for nine months, tells Coleman on an episode of Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen, airing Tuesday.
“I felt like it would be better to be dead than to continue living being a rape victim, being a rape survivor,” Smart says. “I felt in that moment if there had been an easy way out, I probably would have taken it.”
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But she recounts the confusion that immediately followed her rescue in early 2003. She later described how she had been drugged during captivity, tied to a tree and raped as often as four times a day, starting with the day Brian David Mitchell broke into the Smart family’s Salt Lake City home and grabbed her from her bed. He is now serving a life sentence on charges related to the kidnapping.
“One second I was being reunited with my parents, the next second I was being questioned, the next second, they take me up to the hospital that then they’re like, ‘Oh, take off your clothes. Oh, let’s do this kit on you,’ ” Smart says.
“Nobody was really telling me anything and I remember when they were doing the rape kit, I just remember thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ ”
Coleman also was 14 when she alleged she was sexually assaulted by a high school boy in her small Missouri hometown, then left drunk and wearing a T-shirt for hours outside of her home in sub-freezing temperatures. No sexual assault charges were filed, and the accused, Matthew Barnett, was charged and pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child.
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Coleman has since aligned with teen sex assault survivors to form the national campaign SafeB.A.E. — Safe Before Anyone Else — to help steer others away from potential sexual violence. She and Smart discussed the stigma attached to survivors.
“The bullying was really intense because it didn’t just end at school,” Coleman says. “When I would go home, it would be all over the internet. These people are able to say a lot crueler of things because it’s such a dehumanized way of speaking … a lot of things affected how I looked at myself and my idea of self-worth.”
Adds Smart: “It’s so ridiculous when you see anything on the news and some people’s first comments are questions like, ‘What was she wearing? What was she doing? … It literally doesn’t matter if you are dancing around naked completely drunk. Nobody has the right to hurt you.”
The syndicated Crime Watch Daily with Chris Hansen airs Tuesday. Check listings for local times and outlets.