Alabama kidnapping a reminder of Elizabeth Shoaf's nightmare almost 7 years ago

Published: Feb. 5, 2013 at 4:40 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2013 at 2:17 PM EST
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The hole where Filyaw held Elizabeth Shoaf hostage.
The hole where Filyaw held Elizabeth Shoaf hostage.
Elizabeth Shoaf in 2007.
Elizabeth Shoaf in 2007.
Elizabeth Shoaf today.
Elizabeth Shoaf today.

KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) - As the hostage crisis involving a 5-year-old child in Alabama comes to a close, many South Carolinians are reminded of a similar incident in Kershaw County almost 7 years ago.

Elizabeth Shoaf, then 14 years old, was kidnapped by Vinson Filyaw and held against her will in an underground hole for more than a week.

It was there that she was chained to a beam and raped.

She was able to escape because she sent a text message to her mother using her captor's phone.

"I'm the perfect example of what can happen," said Shoaf.

Shoaf, now 21, is determined to not let her story become someone else's. Six years later she says she's moved on.

"It's just a remembrance," said Shoaf. "I use it to keep me strong. I survived and I can help others survive."

At Lugoff-Elgin Middle School, Shoaf warned dozens of mothers and daughters to be cautious and aware of strangers. Her efforts are in partnership with the Kershaw County Sheriff's Department, Kershaw County Council and Genova Family Karate.

Owner Michael Genova is showing these ladies how to fight back.

"If it does happen, you will have a plan, and that's what I'm going to do tonight is give people a plan," said Genova.

Marlee Conway has been taking karate for years. Her mom, Linda, is here for the first time.

"This is something, in my opinion, you say, 'It's not going to happen.' I'd rather be proactive than have something like that happen," said Conway.

It happened to Elizabeth Shoaf in the worst of ways, and now she has real-life advice to give others a fighting chance.

"Unfortunately, we can't stop it from happening, but we can reduce it if parents are more cautious of what's going on and who's around," said Shoaf.

The Alabama case and Shoaf case are extremely rare. According to the US Department of Justice, 115 children are victims of "stereotypical" kidnapping each year -- crimes involving someone the child does not know.

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