UFC women's flyweight fighter Paige VanZant, a Christian, has revealed in her newly released book that she was gang-raped when was only 14 years old, which left her thinking about suicide.
VanZant, now 24, told MMA Fighting in an interview on Monday that she was raped at high school in her native Oregon. The attack, detailed in her book Rise: Surviving the Fight of My Life, apparently occurred when several boys got her drunk at a party and ganged up on her.
"They move me around," VanZant said in describing her harrowing account.
"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."
"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."
The UFC star separately told ABC News that the sexual assault changed her. She was bullied viciously at school, with the rumor being that she had consensual sex with the boys, leaving her to think about taking her own life.
"I didn't see any other way out," she said.
"When you're in that position, when you're feeling that much pain," the fighter continued, "it's not that you want to die. You just don't want to be in pain anymore."
VanZant admitted that she only recently told her own parents about what she had suffered.
"I didn't want to disappoint them and I didn't want them to be mad at me," she said. "And I feel like once I told my parents then it would have been real."
She explained that turning to training and mixed martial arts helped her regain control.
"MMA fighting saved my life," she said. "It saved who I was as a person too."
VanZant said that her book was in the works before the explosion of the "Me Too" movement, which has seen countless celebrities and ordinary people share their stories of sexual abuse and harassment.
"It was totally coincidental and I just couldn't be more happy with the way it worked out," VanZant noted.
"It's like just so comforting that other people kind of took those steps almost before I did, because I'm not the first one. I'm not gonna be the first groundbreaking story. I get to kind of follow and learn from how they did it and see that if they did it, I can do it, too."
She explained that a "huge reason" for putting together Rise is because she wants to "be an advocate for anti-bullying."
"It almost makes it feel like everything I went through was worth it," she said of where life has led her, including a rising MMA career and getting engaged to her boyfriend, fellow MMA competitor Austin Vanderford.
"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."