Tonya Harding is no stranger to domestic violence. The former figure skater who is most well-known from the infamous Harding/ Kerrigan scandal at the 1994 Olympics is using her platform to speak out against domestic violence. Harding is enjoying a recent comeback after the success of the biopic I, Tonya as well as her second-place finish on Dancing with the Stars last spring. For anybody who has followed Harding’s story will know that Harding has been a victim of domestic abuse and violence since she was just a kid.
For the 20th Anniversary of the University of Oregon School of Law’s Domestic Violence Clinic, Harding is the headline speaker and will be sharing her story. The event is planned for March 14th at the Ford Alumni Center from 6-8pm. The event will be the first time Harding has been invited to share her story on a platform used to address domestic violence.
“This is me telling people what I had to go through and how I have gotten through it,” Harding said. “I’m hoping that I can help someone else.”
Ever since she was 5 years old, Harding has taken harsh words such as “you’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re never going to amount to anything” from the people closest to her. For 30 years the abuse escalated from verbal assaults to physical and sexual assaults. While many people are familiar with Harding’s story from what the media has shared, it wasn’t until I, Tonya was released when people started to understand her life and what she has lived through. A book released in 2007 called “The Tonya Tapes” features transcribed interviews of Harding telling her story for never-released autobiography that was the first time Harding ever shared her full story.
According to a 2016 study from The Women’s Foundation called “Count Her In” roughly “one million Oregon women — nearly 50% of the state’s female population — have experienced sexual or domestic violence, one of the highest rates in the country.” For Harding, that number is not surprising.
“Domestic violence happens everywhere,” Harding said. “It happens every single day and so much of it we don’t see.”
Harding is using her renewed fame as a platform to advocate for victims of domestic violence and help encourage people to ask for help and not be afraid.
“It took a long time for me to ask for help because I was ashamed,” Harding said. “I felt small, belittled and thought that I didn’t amount to anything. I had to realize that I am worth something. Every day, I have to push forward no matter what is thrown my way, and that’s really hard to do. But if you want to succeed at just living life, you have to take it one step at a time.”
Find more information about the event at https://law.uoregon.edu/explore/family-law-dv-event
By Dirk Smith