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Sex crime

Elizabeth Smart: Smart, but no expert

Posted by James Alan Fox, Crime and Punishment July 12, 2011 01:30 PM

ABC News announced last week that it was signing Elizabeth Smart as a special contributor who would be called upon to weigh in on cases involving missing and abducted children. The 23-year-old college student is well-known, of course, for having been kidnapped from her home at the age of 14 and repeatedly raped by a homeless religious extremist, and lucky enough to live to tell about it. However, ABC is looking for Smart to speak about much more than her own victimization. Apparently, the network believes that her harrowing ordeal qualifies her as an expert on the general topic of kidnapping. Her name may be smart, but she is hardly an expert.

I will resist the temptation to judge whether such a role is healthy for someone who endured nine months of sexual assault and servitude, with the psychological effects lasting well beyond her rescue. More to the point, what insights can Smart bring to the table or the set of Good Morning America? She may possibly be introspective about her own reactions to the abduction, but not all victims respond in the same way and not all kidnappings are of the same character.

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About the author

James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University. He has written 18 books, including his newest, "Violence and Security on Campus: From Preschool through College." More »

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