updated 10/18/2011 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 10/18/2011 AT 1:35 PM ET
Now helping other kidnap victims with her foundation and in her role as an ABC News contributor covering missing person and child abduction cases, Elizabeth Smart was in Los Angeles Monday for the 6th annual Squeaky Wheel Tour kickoff, to help raise awareness on the 11th anniversary of singer-songwriter Gina Bos’s disappearance in Nebraska.
The tour has drawn attention to thousands of missing persons and the organization’s founder, Bos’s sister Janelle Rap, claims their joint efforts with artists, media and law enforcement have helped lead to the discovery of more than 1,000 missing persons.
Attending Monday’s event at the guitar store West LA Music with her father, Ed Smart, before returning to her classes at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Elizabeth, 23, spoke to PEOPLE about, among various topics, missing children. “There’s always hope,” she said. “There’s my story, there’s Jayceee Dugard’s story and Shawn Hornbeck.
Are you following the Baby Lisa case?
Yes. I think she’s alive. She’s so young, and I feel like – maybe I’m just an eternal optimist – I always hope that whomever is kidnapped or disappears is still alive, and so I think the most important thing is to press forward with this using as much force and power as you can, and continue the search efforts, continuing on and not giving up.
How do you react when you hear about a child being abducted through a bedroom window like you were?
Of course, I hate hearing more abductions happening, especially when there is so much we can do to prevent them from happening. … It makes me so sad, so sick every time I hear about another abduction, another case of child abuse, it’s terrible, no one wants to hear about it.”
Regarding your work with the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, what do you want to convey to children in an abduction situation?
One of our main goals is called the radKIDS program, and that is three principles. The first is that everyone is special … it sounds so basic and primary, but … nobody has the right to hurt you. The second is, because you are special and everyone is special, you don’t have the right to hurt anyone else, including yourself, unless someone is hurting you, and you can make them stop. The third principle [is] the most important: It doesn’t matter who it is, even if it’s a parent, a family member, a neighbor, friend, teacher, whoever, is if they’re hurting you, it’s not your fault and it’s okay to tell.”
And how’s school?
“Playing the harp is my major. I m also interested in law, but my undergrad major is music. I m not 100 percent sure what will happen [with law], but it s an option being bounded around in my brain.