May 7th, 2013
11:42 PM ET

How kidnapping survivor manipulated captor

Elizabeth Shoaf was abducted in South Carolina at age 14 by a man posing as a police officer. She was locked into a pit on his property for 10 days in 2006 and repeatedly sexually assaulted. He would place a bomb around her neck to keep her from escaping when he left her alone.

She says prayer, hope and seeing her family on the news helped her cope with the traumatic ordeal. "Keeping faith kept me strong," she tells Anderson Cooper.

Her strategy for dealing with her captor was to do exactly what he asked her to do, regardless of how painful it was  physically and emotionally. When she did that, his behavior changed.

She slowly started convincing him that they had a future together, and by doing so she earned his trust. "I learned the nicer I was to him, the nicer he was to me," says Shoaf.

By letting him believe she loved him, Shoaf noticed he was becoming more lax. She took advantage when he let his guard down and used his cell phone to text her mom for help. As the police came closer in their search, she manipulated him into thinking he should leave before authorities arrived and then she would find him later so they could be together.


soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Jerome Horowitz

    I'm sure I'm not the first to say this – if someone approaches you claiming to be a cop – call 911 and check on it.

    May 16, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  2. Maggie

    They shouldn"t show these things on the news, it will make captors even more suspicious of their captive victims & it won"t work for them.

    May 16, 2013 at 11:33 am |

    wow this is wonderful I am subbing teenage girls and told them this story and they all agreed they would do this. There have been many studies of how to treat a captivor. its a shame the three girls in Cleveland didnt do something like this and get out.Elizabetth you should give talks about what to do if ever taken captive to young girls

    May 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm |
    • Jamie

      they might have tried it with him and it didn't work,..we don't know.

      May 12, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  4. Erica Baytown TX

    Im so happy this young lady was able to get away from this sicko, my prayers are with her and her family

    May 10, 2013 at 9:37 am |
  5. Mac

    Took 10 years of praying to her god didn't help. Her own common sense and intelligence got her free.

    May 9, 2013 at 1:23 am |
    • randyb

      10 days mac. you r in the wrong article for years. the cleavelnd girls got 10 plus yrs.

      May 11, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Jamie

      praying to God gave her the strength to do what she needed to do.

      May 12, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
      • Jim

        A real God would not have let her be raped for 10 days first.

        May 22, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  6. Kim

    Awesome thinking!!! Glad she is safe and my heart is full with respect and love! What a survivor!!!!

    May 8, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Kim C

      What an amazing young lady.... Such dignity in the face of adversity. Sharp minded, and brilliantly done. She played her captive like a FIDDLE... Well done Elizabeth.

      May 9, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • Sonia

      agreed. . . doesn't matter what kept her sane and alert. . . god, goddess. family, common sense. . . it kept her alive and gave her some control. This was a child held captive by a sick individual. Sharing her story can only help. The deviates are in their own world and knowing others survive can be a big comfort and source of inspiration . . and ideas. I remember thinking (and I still do) that Elizabeth Smart was chosen because she was young and naive and easily manipulated, but she has grown into her name, and turning a personal tragedy into a lesson and greater good for other survivors! Jaycee Dugard seems to be doing the same, These young ladies are refusing to be victims and are speaking in their own time, in their own way, providing inspiration and encouragement to others. God forbid this happen to anyone ever again, but if it does, survival and justice are the best outcomes. . . well, that and being able to turn personal tragedy into triumph and possibly help for others. They have my utmost respect and best wishes for happy lives!

      May 27, 2013 at 10:02 am |