Heather Hardy using prominence to inspire fellow rape survivors
Undefeated boxer Heather Hardy saw her prominence increase dramatically after a gritty win in her MMA debut at Bellator 180. The fighter is bravely using her heightened public awareness to support fellow survivors of sexual assault, as she detailed during a recent appearance on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour. She explained that she was raped at 12, after smoking marijuana that she believes was laced. She told no one and suffers effects to this day.
Ariel Helwani: You were raped…
Heather Hardy: Yeah.
AH: You’re okay with that? You’re okay. … because I read some thing that was very interesting that you said that, “People feel uncomfortable talking to me about it, but I actually enjoy having my voice heard, and telling people so people don’t blame themselves.” Victims can learn from this and don’t blame themselves. Because that’s something that you feel, right? You blamed yourself?
HH: Well, I did for a long time, and I think that’s part of the problem with anything, from rape to domestic violence, to even personal, mental disorders. People with depression and anxiety, people are so afraid to talk about it because you feel so isolated. You feel like, “This only happened to me, because I’m bad. It’s not something that happens to everyone but this is me because I’m bad.“ And you know, any chance I can get to tell people, like, “It happened to me, and you think I’m cool… [Laughs] You think I have my s*** together, but I really don’t.” And I never, I never fully had my s*** together. But every day I’m working towards it, and you can do the same thing.
“For so long, I carried that every single day. Like it had a handle on it. … And I brought it with me.”
AH: How did you get over that?
HH: I never got over it. I still didn’t get over it, but I did accept that it wasn’t my fault and it’s not my burden to carry. It’s his, instead. I just figured out how to live my life around that happening – how to accept that, you know, everything that happens isn’t my fault. Some things are beyond your control.
“I realize not everyone has a microphone and a platform to speak. And I think an athlete’s duty to reach out to all the people who think that you inspire them, or who say, “Because of you, I went to the gym today. Because of you, I felt like I could box.“ I wanted to reach out to people on a different level, so that because of me they could put a piece of their life behind them. Like, “You know what? Bad things have happened to me in my life, but I’m still able to do well and able to do good.“
If you are a victim of sexual assault and need immediate support, you can locate a local Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) facility with professional counseling and assistance by calling 800.656.4673 or visiting Centers.rainn.org.