Elizabeth Smart has revealed she was sexually assaulted on an airline flight last year, according to television station KSL in Salt Lake City, Utah.
She’s talking about it publicly for the first time on Thursday, telling CBS This Morning she was asleep on the plane on the way back to Salt Lake City when she was jerked awake by a man’s touch.
“I felt someone’s hand rubbing in between my legs on my inner thigh,” Smart said.
Smart is a kidnapping and sexual assault survivor. She travels the nation to help other women overcome abuse. Yet she was not prepared for what happened.
“I was shocked. The last time someone touched me without my say so, was when I was kidnapped. I froze. I did not know what to do,” she said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘You’re Elizabeth Smart, you should know what to do.’”
She said the man didn’t even apologize or give a reason why he was touching her. She told Delta. She says she knows it was not the airline’s fault, it was the man’s fault.
Delta immediately offered to help, and the investigation was turned over to the FBI.
“I don’t want him to be preying on other girls,” she said.
Her husband suggested she work with a family friend trained in self-defense. It made her realize she’s not doing enough. So she created a self-defense class for women and girls, to give them the tools they need to protect themselves. They call it Smart Defense.
Smart told CBS News she believes she might have had the confidence to attempt to escape her kidnappers when she was 14 if she’d had the physical training her class teaches.
The most recent data from the FBI shows sexual assaults on planes are on the rise.
In fiscal year 2014, 38 cases of in-flight sexual assault were reported to the FBI. In the 2017 fiscal year, that number increased to 63, the New York Times reported.