The notable UFC flyweight recently released her autobiography, “Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life,” which includes her story of surviving a devastating sexual assault and bullying during high school.
Paige VanZant has spoken of her troubled high school years before, but often evasively. Described by herself as “a rough few years” in the past, VanZant graduated high school at just 16 to get away from persistent bullying, even going so far as to change her name.
However, in her recently released memoir, Rise: Suriving the Fight of My Life, VanZant revealed the full and shattering circumstances of her trauma during those formative years. The notable UFC flyweight fighter and Dancing With the Stars competitor was the victim of sexual assault by a group of men.
“They move me around,” VanZant wrote, in her recounting of the assault. “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. I have no voice or choice but to submit and pray that it ends soon.”
In an interview with MMA Fighting, VanZant talked about her decision to tell the story in print, and why it was something she felt more comfortable writing about than speaking about.
“I had written stuff in high school, and I had written things here and there,” she said. “It got to the point where it was like, you know, it’s time for me to share it. I guess being on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and being on all these shows and I kept being asked about it, I guess it was time to just be very transparent. If I was gonna say anything and be open about it, the best way to do it is to write it down in a book and let people read it. So it doesn’t necessarily have to come out of my mouth, but people get to hear my story.”
“Just so I got to say it one time — I said exactly what I wanted to say to a person, they wrote it down and then I never had to look at it again,” VanZant said. “So, it was me voicing everything that happened and I just got it out in the open and I never had to look at it again. It was one of those things where I tell the story and move on.”
She also revealed that, while the timing was unintentional (the book had been in the works well before), VanZant felt buoyed by the “Me Too” movement, and the large number of other women who have spoken out about their own, similar experiences. “It’s just so comforting that other people kind of took those steps almost before I did, because I’m not the first one,” she told MMA Fighting.
Eventually, VanZant says that she hopes the book can help in her anti-bullying advocacy. And that her perseverance and success in life following these devastating events in her past can hopefully serve as a guiding light for others who may be suffering similarly.
“It almost makes it feel like everything I went through was worth it,” VanZant said, speaking of women who have reached out to her with their own stories of assault. “Like I went through it for a purpose. Once this book comes out, if it changes someone’s life, then what I went through wasn’t meaningless, it wasn’t something terrible. It wasn’t a tragedy. It was something beautiful and it’s gonna be good and it’s gonna help people.”