The Survivor

Poem by woman who spent 4 years held captive by cult leader brings Dallas audience to its feet

Iasia Sweeting opened up about her remarkable story of survival at the Women in the World Texas Salon

She was kidnapped by a cult leader, held captive for more than four-and-a-half years and almost starved to death. On Monday at the Women in the World Texas Salon, Iasia Sweeting told her story, and opened up about how writing poetry was the key to her survival. Sweeting was interviewed by Zainab Salbi, author, media commentator and the founder of Women for Women International.

Sweeting, who has appeared on the Women in the World stage previously, also delivered an emotional performance of “Discovery,” a poem that she wrote while she was in captivity. She wrote the words to the poem in the margins of a text book that her captor forced her to read. “The key to my survival at that time was to continue to remind myself that I’m not who he says I am. I’m much more than that — and that’s what this poem is about.” Sweeting said that when her captor caught her writing a poem, he would tear the page out of the book and throw it away. “I was only able to save what I could remember,” Sweeting said.

Above, watch Sweeting’s performance, which brought the Dallas audience to its feet for a standing ovation, and below watch her full conversation with Zainab Salbi, an emotional discussion in which she talks about giving birth while in captivity and the death of her daughter, which ended up leading to her rescue.


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