SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The sex abuse scandal that has rocked Penn State University underscores the need for people to report crimes against children, Elizabeth Smart said Monday.Too often, she said, people decide to ignore abused children because it’s difficult for them to understand why it has happened, or they convince themselves that somebody else will report it.”It’s such a heinous crime, we want to think it doesn’t exist,” Smart said at a news conference in Salt Lake City.Smart said that was the case at Penn State, where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is facing multiple child abuse charges in a scandal that also led to the firing of revered head coach Joe Paterno last week. Multiple team and school officials knew about the abuse but never reported it to law enforcement.Smart was kidnapped, rape and held captive in 2002 at the age of 14 by Brian David Mitchell, a Salt Lake City street preacher. Mitchell was convicted last year by a federal jury on charges of kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor across state lines for sex, and he was sentenced to life in prison.Since the end of the trial, Smart has become an active advocate for programs that find missing children and prosecute child sex predators. She is also working as a commentator for ABC News.Last week, Smart sent a letter to President Barack Obama that requested a state of emergency to “mobilize a massive search and rescue operation” to rescue missing or abused children and find the perpetrators.Protecting children needs to become a national priority, and programs at the state and national level need to be funded, Smart said.Smart also had some words of encouragement for abuse victims, based on what her mother told her.”The best punishment I could give him was to be happy and follow my dreams,” Smart said. “The best advice I can give to victims is to not let it hold them back.”
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