Paige VanZant has opened up about being sexually assaulted in her teenage years, saying MMA saved her life.
Paige VanZant has had the spotlight on her since joining the UFC. With her model good looks, a popular stint on Dancing with the Stars, and other appearances including winning an episode of Food Network’s Chopped, ’12 Guage’ has won over a lot of fans. She’s also had her detractors, who have complained that she was pushed to the forefront of the women’s divisions due to her popularity rather than ability. Regardless of which side of the fence you are on, however, her account of being gang raped at the age of fourteen is heartbreaking.
VanZant opens up about the experience in her new autobiography, Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life.
Speaking to Good Morning America, she recounted that “I was so lonely, I was in so much pain,” during her younger years. After being invited to a party by a male acquaintance, things took a sinister turn. “When I walked in the door of their house,” said Paige when asked when she knew something was wrong. “I was like ‘this probably isn’t a good idea.’ So it was right away, and I was like ‘I probably shouldn’t be here.'”
In Rise, she writes that she was assaulted by several young men at the party. “They change my position. I fail each time I try to resist, my limbs like wet cement on my body, my brain a heavy fog. I am awake and conscious, but my body feels dead.”
“I know what is happening but can do nothing to stop it,” she continues. “I have no voice or choice but to submit and pray that it ends soon.”
After the experience, she told Good Morning America, she “was a changed person through the whole thing. I became a totally different person.” That led her to being suicidal. “I didn’t see any other way out. When you’re in that position, when you’re feeling that much pain, it’s not that you want to die,” she explained on the show, “it’s just that you don’t want to be in that much pain anymore.”
However, ultimately, she persevered — thanks in part to picking up MMA. “MMA fighting definitely saved my life. It saved who I was as a person too.”
Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life is available today at retailers.
If you’re in the U.S. and have experienced sexual assault, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE (4673). Users in Canada can visit the following link for resources.