In PEOPLE's new cover article, the kidnap victim speaks out about her ordeal and recovery

By People Staff
Updated June 12, 2008 06:00 AM

Six years ago this month, a drifter named Brian David Mitchell allegedly kidnapped 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart from her Salt Lake City bedroom and held her captive for nine months – until her rescue on March 12, 2003, when several citizens called police after spotting her, PEOPLE reports in its new issue.

Having rarely spoken about her ordeal in the years since she’s been back, Smart – now 20 and a junior at Brigham Young University majoring in music performance – agreed to talk with PEOPLE about how she is doing because she feels her story can help other children who have survived abductions.

“I feel so fortunate that I was able to come through this unscarred. I want to tell other people, ‘Don’t give up. Miracles do happen,’ ” says Smart – whose alleged abductors, in custody and still being evaluated for their mental fitness to stand trial, kept her chained to a tree, constantly threatened her life and, according to prosecutors, assaulted her.

Still, by all accounts Smart is doing remarkably well in putting her ordeal behind her. “I feel so lucky to be here,” she says. “From the day I came home, I haven’t wasted time looking back.”

For Elizabeth’s remarkable storyincluding her life among the homeless and how she was able to bounce back with her family – “pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday