EL CENTRO – The Imperial County District Attorney, Gilbert G. Otero, held a Victim’s Rights Lunch in recognition of Victims’ Rights Week. The even was held Wednesday, April 9th at the Victims Witness Assistance Facility.
Deborah Owen, Assistant District Attorney, invited Elizabeth Smart as guest speaker. Smart, 26, was abducted from her family home in 2002 and was found months later on March 12, 2003. She now travels the country speaking about victims’ rights and helping those who don’t have a voice.
Smart has an unfortunate connection to the Imperial Valley that still is very vivid in her mind. During her captivity, her captors hitchhiked through the Imperial Valley along Highway 86.
“When I was asked if I wanted to come here (Imperial Valley), I said, ‘Yes. I definitely want to come here because my only memory of the Valley has been while I was kidnapped. I was held in Lakeside and then we hitchhiked through here.”
“I remember standing out on the side of the road—with the canals, some of the fields of alfalfa, sugar beets, or whatever it is growing out there. Every car that would pass us by I would just pray that they would stop and pick us up. It was so hot, I was so thirsty, so tired, I just wanted to go home so bad.”
Elizabeth Smart is a victim-turned-hero. Her foundation, Elizabeth Smart Foundation, has teamed up with radKIDS to break the cycle of violence and victimization.
radKIDS is the national leader in children’s safety education and provides the only holistic, practical and realistic life safety skills safety program available today. radKIDS teaches children individually in an activity based, hands-on training classroom.
radKIDS teaches three critical rules that help youth realize their self work and importance.
Rule number 1 is, “No one has the right to hurt me because I am special.”
Rule number two is, “I don’t have the right to hurt anyone else unless they are hurting me.”
The desire is to stop assault physically with the intention to escape, not to harm.
Finally, rule number three is, “It’s not my fault.”
Many abused victims are too afraid to report assault because they feel responsible.
Through radKIDS training, children become empowered, learning to replace the fear, confusion, and the panic of dangerous situatione with confidence, personal safety skills, and self-esteem.