Elizabeth Smart shares advice for fellow kidnapping survivor Jayme Closs, saying it 'doesn’t have to define her life'

‘Today’ Show/Barron County Sheriff’s DepartmentElizabeth Smart, 31, left, spoke about 13-year-old Jayme Closs, right, on the ‘Today’ show Monday morning.
  • Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart appeared on the “Today” show Monday morning to discuss the Jayme Closs case, which many have compared to Smart’s own unlikely story of survival.
  • Closs, 13, was reported missing in October, after her parents were found murdered.
  • Police say she was held captive for three months before making an escape last week.
  • Smart, 31, was abducted from her Utah home when she was 14 years old, and held captive by a couple for nine months before she was rescued. She has since become an advocate for similar victims.

When 13-year-old Wisconsin girl Jayme Closs was found alive last week, after nearly three months missing, many compared her story to that of Elizabeth Smart, the Utah woman who was held captive by a couple for nine months in 2002.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that Smart appeared on the “Today” show Monday morning to discuss the case and offer some words of advice for the fellow kidnapping survivor.

Smart, who is now a 31-year-old married mother of three, said she was “so happy” when she learned that Closs was found alive last Thursday.

Jake Thomas Patterson, 21, was subsequently arrested on suspicion of killing Closs’ parents and then holding her captive in his basement for months before she escaped.

Smart went on to say that she thinks Closs is “a hero” and that she shouldn’t let anyone make her feel guilty for what happened, since survivors are often raked with guilt.

“She did nothing wrong. She did absolutely everything right. She survived. That’s amazing,” Smart said.

She also said that Closs shouldn’t let what happened to her “define her life.”

“Yes, certainly it has changed her life, certainly it will continue to affect her life, but it doesn’t have to define her life. She can choose what she wants to be. She can choose where life takes her,” Smart said. “Because ultimately it’s our choices that make us who we are.”

Read more:
‘It’s never going to be easy’: Former kidnapping victims explain what the long healing process will be like for 13-year-old Jayme Closs

Now that Closs has been reunited with her extended family, Smart says it’s important to reconnect with her support group and get used to her new life.

“You don’t go back to the old normal, there’s only a new normal. And coming to terms with that and accepting that, that’s probably – well, at least for me – one of the biggest and hardest steps,” Smart said.

Jake Thomas Patterson (1)Barron County Sheriff’s DepartmentJake Thomas Patterson was arrested and charged on suspicion of killing Closs’ parents and then kidnapping the teen.

When asked what Closs can do to turn out as well-adjusted as herself, Smart, who has become an advocate for fellow victims, said there’s “no one size fits all” formula for happiness.

“You just have to find what works for you,” she said. “But I think the important thing is to know that that’s what you want, to know that you want to be better, to know that you want to be happy, and to be moving towards that.”

Closs’ alleged abductor is set to be arraigned on two counts of intentional homicide and one count of kidnapping in court on Monday.

Closs was reunited with her family on Friday. Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said she “is doing as well as circumstances allow,” according to USA Today.

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