Elizabeth Thomas Reflects on Being Abducted by Her Teacher, Getting 'Closure' (Exclusive)

'Abducted by My Teacher: The Elizabeth Thomas Story' premieres Saturday on Lifetime.

It's been more than six years since Elizabeth Thomas was abducted at 15 by her Tennessee school teacher and held captive for 39 traumatizing days by the 50-year-old married man. In the years since, Thomas, now 22, has done her best to put the painful experience behind her by setting out to live a normal life. She got engaged in 2018 and then married her longtime friend, Skylar Dirla, the following year in a secret ceremony.

Fast forward to now, Thomas is not only ready to tell her story by way of a Lifetime movie, she's absolutely looking forward to watching the Elizabeth Smart-produced film, Abducted by My Teacher: The Elizabeth Thomas Story, because -- in an oddly satisfying way -- making the movie has been part of her healing process and, soon, it'll provide closure after all these years.

"It has," Thomas tells ET's Cassie DiLaura in a joint interview with Smart when asked if putting the film together has been part of her healing process. "It's given me a little bit of closure, actually. And being able to know that this is no longer happening in my life and being able to look back, you know, knowing that this made me stronger."

Thomas, who met her now-husband while working at a seafood restaurant, says life for her now is at a slower pace, much of which she enjoys with Dirla. And it's that precise lifestyle that's also prevented her from watching the film in full.

"It's kind of hard to sit there and watch it. I haven't watched the film," she says. "I have to do it in sections. That way I don't disrupt my everyday life. You know, I'm still healing."

And life now's "fairly quiet," she says.

"Which is how I like it," Thomas adds. "We just are homebodies. We like watching movies and just being with each other and enjoying each other's company. He's a goofy guy that I just can't get annoyed. I love him so much."

The film, premiering Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime, chronicles the grooming process Thomas underwent that ultimately led to her teacher, Tad Cummins, abducting her at knifepoint from her home in 2017. Thomas was held captive for 39 excruciating days as they crossed the country -- and nearly 2,000 miles -- before authorities tracked them down in a remote cabin in Northern California. Thomas' captor was arrested and he pleaded guilty to transporting a minor across state lines to have sex and falsifying records, both felonies. In 2019, Cummins was sentenced to 20 years behind bars.

The "ripped from the headlines" film -- directed by Shawn Linden and written by Kristine Huntley -- stars Michael Fishman and Summer Howell. Smart serves as an executive producer. She also shares an eerily similar experience. Smart was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City, Utah, home in 2002, at the age of 14, and held captive for nine months by Utah street preacher Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. Mitchell ultimately was sentenced to life in prison. Barzee was given a 15-year prison sentence but was released in September 2018, much to Smart's chagrin.

In 2017, Smart was the subject of the Lifetime movie, I Am Elizabeth Smart, a film Smart describes as "the best worst movie I have ever seen."

"Because it so accurately portrayed what happened to me," Smart tells ET. "And so when I met Elizabeth, I heard she was considering doing some kind of movie about what happened to her. Just having experienced myself a lot of misinformation being said or people jumping to conclusions or feeling like I've been misrepresented many times, if ever there's a chance that I can help and help them to be able to have a safe platform where they feel like their input is valued, where it's important, where they feel like they have the freedom to say that's not right, or I'm not happy with this, that's important to me."

Smart, now 35 and married with three children, said the film does an exceptional job of laying out the tell-tale signs of a groomer, and she hopes the film serves as an educational tool to help prevent what she and Thomas endured.

"I think it just does such a beautiful job of showing the grooming process, and that is so important because it is much more prevalent today than people think," Smart says. "I have no doubt that someone will sit there and watch it and they will say, 'Wait a second. That happened to me. That's happening to me right now.' And I think it will lead to helping other survivors. Maybe escape. Maybe come forward. Maybe find the courage to press charges or report what's happened to them."

Abducted by My Teacher: The Elizabeth Thomas Story airs Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime.