Smart appeared on NBC's "Today" show a day after Isidro Garcia, 41, was charged in Santa Ana, Calif., with kidnapping his girlfriend's daughter when she was 15.
Police said his alleged victim, while outwardly a contented wife and mother, was dominated by Garcia, who allegedly used threats to keep her captive.
Smart said people should not be too quick to judge the alleged victim and to question why she did not escape. One neighbor told a newspaper the young woman had her own car and appeared free to come and go.
"It's so easy for us to be curious and think, 'Why didn't you escape? Why didn't you run away?' but it's really important that we don't ask that question because all the survivor hears is, 'You should have done something,' and 'It's your fault you were gone so long,' and that's what they do not need to be hearing right now," Smart said.
Smart was abducted from her bedroom in Utah when she was 14 and held for nine months by a couple as a second wife. She said she was kept in line by threats that her kidnappers would harm her family.
The young woman should also be careful to take the time she needs for herself, Smart said.
"If you don't feel like sharing your story yet, you don't need to. We will still be here if, and when, you decide to share your story," Smart said. "Take all the time you need to find healing, to find happiness, to find that new normal in your life, to move forward. Take all the time you need."
Smart founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which supports education for children on sexual crimes. Her kidnappers, Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, are now in prison with Mitchell serving two life terms.