Elizabeth Smart has spoken out about the the 13 malnourished siblings rescued from an allegedly abusive home in California earlier this week, telling them in a videotaped message that “life is not as dark and as terrible as it has been.”
When asked by ABC News what she would tell the liberated Turpin children, whose parents face torture and child endangerment charges, Smart said her message would be one of hope.
Smart, who was kidnapped at 14 and held captive for nine months, said she would tell the seven adults and six minors that “there is happiness in the future and that they can go on to have wonderful lives.”
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Louise Turpin, 49, and her husband, David Turpin, 56, were arrested Monday after their 17-year-old daughter “escaped” from their home and called 911 to report that her 12 siblings were allegedly being held captive by their parents.
A hospital official tells PEOPLE the seven adult children are doing well, given what they’ve endured.
Speaking about the Turpin siblings, ages 2 to 29, Smart, 30, said, “I would want them to know that they survived, they did it.”
She continued: “It’s not what happens to you that defines who you are. It may shape you, it certainly will mold you, it might absolutely affect the direction of your life, but that does not have to define you. You can still move forward, what ultimately defines you are the choices that you make.”
• For more compelling true crime coverage, follow our Crime magazine on Flipboard.
Smart added: “I would encourage them to find the things in their life that make them happy, and don’t be afraid to … to go out and to experience the world.
According to investigators, officers allegedly found some of the children shackled to their beds.
The Turpins are being held on $9 million bail each. The couple is expected to be arraigned Thursday, but have not retained legal counsel as of yet.
A neighbor of the family told PEOPLE on Tuesday the parents and children exhibited “odd” behaviors.
Their aunts have also spoken out about the allegations, calling them “shocking.”