Elizabeth Smart was just 14 years old when she was kidnapped at knifepoint from her home in Salt Lake City by Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee. She was held captive for nine months, raped nearly every single day. She writes all about her time struggling for her life in a new tell-all memoir called “My Story,” which Smart talked  about when she visited George Washington University on Thursday. From survivor to activist Smart has become an powerful voice against child abuse.

“I remember so many overwhelming feelings and emotions, terror that is utterly indescribable,” she recalled when delivering a speech at the Marvin Center on campus. “I remember crying and feeling hopeless, just complete despair. Even if I could escape right now, who could take me back?”

Among the near 100 students present to hear Smart speak was Second Lady Jill Biden, showing her support for the young lady who is spreading the word that you should never give up hope after experiencing such child abuse, no matter how long the path back to normalcy takes.

Smart admitted that she felt “filthy and ruined” once she returned home, but she pushed forward.

“She [My mom] said she’d always love me. My family would always love me. So I made the most important decision: I would do whatever I could to survive. I would make it home,” she said Thursday.

During her speech Smart also discussed what an impact the kidnapping had on her life. “I would never go out and say ‘oh please, sign me up for a kidnapping.’ Hello, that sounds like a vacation,” she joked as some audience members muffled their uncomfortable laughs. “No, I would never ever say that. But I can honestly and truly say that I am grateful for what has happened because of what it has allowed me to do.”

Smart of course was referring to her nonprofit, the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, her job as correspondent for ABC News, and her work with radKIDS, an organization committed to working with families to help train them in child safety.

As for her advice for her advice for college students having a difficult time at home, Smart said,

I would tell them to never give up because life is so wonderful, so worth living. Whatever you trial or hardship is right now you never know how it will help you later on in life. Whether it’s something you learned now or whether it changes the path of your life. You just never ever know. So never give up. Always have hope.

 You can watch some clips from Smart’s speech in a video by Diana Marinaccio here.