Even with a record of 20-0, Hardy was not a well-known presence in the sports world prior to Bellator 180. That all changed when she was introduced to millions of MMA fans on June 24th.
Her fight, against former Golden Gloves boxer Alice Yauger, was a rough one. But, it was the ending and the post-fight interview that really made the experience a coming-out party. Hardy displayed a lot of heart during the fight, and a ton of personality after. She’s quickly gaining a reputation for being an affable, hard-nosed crossover talent.
What isn’t as well known is that she is also a rape survivor. Now, she’s using her new MMA platform to spread awareness for other survivors of sexual assault and rape.
Appearing on the MMA Hour this week, she discussed the topic with Ariel Helwani, and emphasized her desire to help others (see video here.)
Ariel Helwani: Of course, any time someone reads about your story now, they read about what happened to you when you were 12.
Heather Hardy: Mm-hmm.
Helwani: You were raped…
Helwani: 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…
Helwani: “…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?
Hardy: 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 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]
Hardy: “You think I have my shit together, but I really don’t.” And I never, I never fully had my shit together. But every day I’m working towards it, and you can do the same thing.
Hardy went on to explain that the assault occurred after smoking cannabis at the home of her assailant, who she believes laced her drugs. Not wanting to admit she had been consuming the narcotic, she refused to tell anyone about the event. The trauma lasted for years and still leaves traces on her psyche.
Hardy: For so long, I carried that every single day. Like it had a handle on it.
Hardy: And I brought it with me.
Helwani: How did you get over that?
Hardy: 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.
Hardy now wants to make sure she can bring awareness to these matters, and to serve as an inspiration to others:
Hardy: 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.“
It sounds like, as busy as she may be these days between boxing and MMA, she’s never going to be too busy to be an advocate for those in need regarding this subject.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault or rape, please encourage them to contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673), or visit https://centers.rainn.org/ for a local facility with professional counseling and assistance affiliated with the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network with complete confidentiality.
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