Before I dive into this case I would like to put this disclaimer out there for those of you reading.
When I am writing about true crime I want to make it very clear how much respect and empathy I have for the victims and those affected by the heinous acts of violence and terror brought forth by their assailants. I am writing these to not only bring awareness to the many victims of violent crimes but also as an educational source for anyone else wishing to explore these subjects. I plan on doing everything I can to make sure that I cover such cases in as respectful a way as I can and to tell their story with all the facts I have at my disposal.
One cannot really begin to explain the feelings that come along with rape unless they’ve experienced it themselves. The shame and humiliation that follow an assault are unmatched to anything else. To not feel safe or secure in your own skin. Elizabeth was feeling all of this and on a much deeper level as her situation was one in which she would now live in constant fear of her next rape.
Growing up as religious as she had there was now a sense of confusion within her. She was taught purity and wondered if her family would even want her after Brian Mitchell had violated her in such a sick and personal way. Irrational as it could possibly sound, it’s not at all uncommon for such thoughts to arise following an assault.
She wondered now what was going on at her home. Was her family searching for her? By now they had to know she was gone, right? Elizabeth felt obvious exhaustion from the events of the last night and this morning, but more than anything she felt fear. She managed to fall into a light doze for a while but never truly slipping into a deep sleep. She was always aware of where she was and what was happening, how could one truly rest in such a horrific situation? That night she planned to run.
However her doze would be interrupted and she would open her eyes to find Brian Mitchell wrapping a steel cable around her ankle. Elizabeth could see that the cable was stretched almost to its limit and reached outside the tent.
“What are you doing?” She asked, looking up at her captor and assailant.
Brian Mitchell answered her with a sarcastic undertone. “Shearjashub, I just want to take away any temptations.”
Elizabeth was completely confused. What was a Shearjashub? Confusion turned into a sick feeling of dread though, she was beginning to realize that Mitchell’s plan was not to kill her at all. Was this to be her new life now?
Any thoughts of running that Elizabeth had prior were now replaced with the sick feeling of hopelessness. This cable was not going anywhere. All she could do at this point was think of her family and create the will to survive. She had to survive.
After a while Elizabeth looked around a bit, assessing her surroundings and taking everything in. In the tent there were two thick pads for Barzee and Mitchell to sleep on and a thinner pad for her. They were dressed with floral print sheets that Elizabeth found hideous, as well as a plum colored comforter that was a lighter shade on the other side. Also atrocious. There were two feathered pillows and two hard cot pillows stuffed along the top of the tent. It was disheartening realizing this was her home for the inevitable future.
She finally worked herself up enough to make her way out of the tent and again looked around, surveying the campsite more thoroughly than she had before. The cable around her ankle was tethered to another steel cable that was bolted by a padlock between two trees. She had roughly 20 feet of movement throughout the camp with the cable on.
Elizabeth sat down on a nearby upturned bucket and continued to cry. There was nothing else she could do. Mitchell and Barzee didn’t acknowledge her for quite some time until Barzee made a point to address the distressed girl. This was not an act of comfort or kindness though.
“This is your time to cry, this is your wedding day. Go ahead and get it out, but know this, you can’t go on and cry forever. Pretty soon you’ll have to stop.”
It wasn’t long after before Mitchell had things he needed to say as well. He made his way over to Elizabeth, speaking directly to her.
“You will call me Immanuel. You will call her Hephzibah.” He pointed at Barzee as he said this, then turning his attention back to her. He pointed at Elizabeth now. “Shearjashub.”
“My name is Elizabeth Smart.” She replied without hesitation.
Mitchell acted as if she hadn’t spoken at all and continued talking. “You are her handmaiden. You are the second wife. She is your mother wife and you are her handmaiden.”
Elizabeth would find out as time passed that to Mitchell the term handmaiden clearly meant sex toy, and to Barzee meant slave. It didn’t matter what you called it, all Elizabeth really knew was that they were in charge and she was at their disposal.
Survival was the only thing driving her now, it’s all she had left at this point. She thought maybe if she seemed as though she were not as scared or that she was accepting of her situation that perhaps they would learn to trust her over time and she could make plans to escape then. So when Barzee pulled out the food and began to prepare dinner Elizabeth offered her help.
Naturally Barzee was skeptical and kept the knife far enough out of reach that it couldn’t even become an idea for the young girl but she accepted the help. They ate onions, carrots, and raisins mixed with mayonnaise rolled up in a tortilla. Once they had eaten though Barzee told Elizabeth she no longer needed her help and urged her to continue crying if she needed to because this was after all, her wedding day.
This sent Elizabeth into another tailspin, the tears welled up in her eyes and her chest grew tight with panic. All she could do was plead through broken, muddled sobs.
“Please..Please don’t hurt me again…Please just leave me alone…”
Mitchell answered her dryly without so much as an ounce of emotion behind his voice. “We’re man and wife. That’s what we do now.”
“No! Please don’t do it again. You don’t have to do it. Please, I’m begging you.” Elizabeth was completely hysterical now.
Mitchell’s eyes narrowed and his eyebrows creased into sharp lines, this time there was anger in his voice as he replied to the sobbing, shaking girl. “It’s what we do.”
His anger turned to a quick menacing demeanor as he smirked and continued to speak. “Tomorrow we are going to be as Adam and Eve in the garden. We’ll be his little children. Tomorrow we’re all going to go naked and Hephzibah and I are going to demonstrate.”
Mitchell would go on to explain all of the horrific things he was going to do with Elizabeth eventually, it made her skin crawl. The next day they did as he had said and were forced to spend the day naked, he made true of his promises to demonstrate with Hephzibah as well. Then he raped Elizabeth again. Her life over the next 9 months would become that of hunger, thirst, boredom, and rape.
The crying didn’t stop after the first day. She had in 48 hours experienced and seen things that no child should be subjected to. Elizabeth felt broken, there were so many things she wondered if she would ever get to experience. Prom, football games, college. This life she felt had been stolen from her overnight.
She must have said something out loud by mistake through her cries because Mitchell began sneering at her, as if offended that she wasn’t somehow grateful for the life he was giving her now. He would go on to preach at her for the better half of the afternoon. After what felt like an eternity there was finally a moment of quiet, although it wouldn’t be for long.
“Shearjashub is your name.”
“What?” Elizabeth answered him meekly.
“Your name is Shearjashub. He was the first son of Isaiah.”
“You’re giving me a man’s name?” She was confused by this. It just didn’t make sense, none of this made sense to her though.
“It means a remnant will return.”
Elizabeth didn’t care what it meant, she found it completely Ludacris. She wondered if he even knew her real name. Although young and naïve, she wasn’t at all oblivious to the fact that this was just a manipulation tactic meant to remove her further from her previous life. Her real life.
She thought for a moment and looked back to Mitchell.
“Can I choose a middle name?”
“What?” He looked at her skeptically.
“You and Hephzibah have middle names. You’re Immanuel David Isaiah, she is Hephzibah Elladah Isaiah. I would like a middle name too.” Elizabeth explained.
Mitchell looked her over, his expression almost seemed happy. It was as though he had a sense of pride that perhaps she was understanding and accepting her circumstances.
“Alright you can choose a middle name.”
There was not a moment’s hesitation as she spoke, “I want my middle name to be Elizabeth.”
“No, not Elizabeth! Nothing like that! Not Elizabeth and not Ann.” He hissed at her.
Ann was her middle name, he did know her name.
“Your middle name has to be from the Old Testament.” He continued.
Elizabeth pressed on, “Anna was a prophetess in the bible.”
“It will not be Anna!” He was angry now and it was apparent that his patience was growing thin.
Elizabeth stood up and walked over to where a bible sat. She picked it up thoughtfully and began thumbing through the pages of the Old Testament. Barzee watched her, curious of what she was doing. She wanted her middle name to start with an E. She needed a connection to her name even if just a tiny one. She stopped, one of her heroes in the bible was a queen named Esther. Esther was strong and courageous, she needed both strength and courage if she was to survive this.
“I want my middle name to be Esther.”
Barzee and Mitchell exchanged glances before he spoke and said “Okay.”
“I want you to call me Esther, not Shearjashub. Esther is a girl’s name. It’s from the bible. Will you call me that now?”
With great reluctance Mitchell nods and agrees to this. There was a small sense of joy that filled Elizabeth in this, it was a victory. A small victory, but it gave her a renewed sense of hope.
Elizabeth Smart: My Story with Chris Stewart