Elizabeth Smart Will 'Never Be the Same'

Four years after her abduction, the Utah teen is relying on her "wonderful family"

Elizabeth Smart, who was just 14 when she was abducted from her Utah home in 2002, says her ordeal changed her life forever.

“It will never be the same as it used to be,” Smart, now 18, told PEOPLE on Thursday, “but it’s good.” She added that she’s in a healthy place these days. “I have a wonderful family, good friends. I have a lot to look forward to.”

Smart and her father, Ed, were in Washington, D.C., along with America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh and other parents of abducted children, for the passing of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.

President Bush signed the bill in the Rose Garden earlier in the day, extending a personal greeting to Smart during the ceremony.

The bill requires, among other provisions, that a standardized sex-offender registry be established in each state and that all adoptive and foster parents undergo background checks.

At a reception honoring the bill, Smart told reporters, “Anyone who hurts a child, in my opinion, doesn’t deserve to live.”

Smart was only 14 when she was abducted at knifepoint from her bedroom in Salt Lake City and held captive for nine months by homeless couple Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee.

Now working as a bank teller in Salt Lake City for the summer, Smart begins her freshman year at Utah’s Brigham Young University in the fall. A harpist for 13 years, she plans to study music.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is named after John Walsh’s 6-year-old son, who was kidnapped from a Florida shopping mall in 1981 and later found murdered. July 27 marked the 25th anniversary of Adam’s abduction.

At the reception for the bill, Walsh called the day “bittersweet, but wonderful.” The law will make it easier to catch sex offenders and predators, he said. “This bill is a strike back for all of the victims. We’re going to know who (the criminals) are, we’re going to know where they are and if they violate they’re going to be hunted down.”

Walsh and his wife, Rev Walsh, are co-founders of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which hosted the reception Washington, D.C.’s Hotel Washington for family members of abducted and molested children and members of Congress and the Senate.

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