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Mr. Norris, the Olympics are over, but not its lessons. On behalf of all child sexual abuse victims, I thank you for highlighting last week in C-Force some of the courageous steps of gold medalist judo Olympian Kayla Harrison, who suffered years of sexual abuse at the hands of her coach. But how extensive are these crimes in the general public? – M. Carrigan in Cincinnati
Catherine McCall, a licensed marriage and family therapist who is also an expert in child sexual abuse, explained in one of her many helpful Psychology Today articles: “Here’s an acknowledgement of the scope of the problem: Only (months) ago, Janice Amy Lloyd, in USA Today (12/15/11), reported the results of a recent CDC study saying that nearly one in five women and one in 71 men have been raped in their lifetime. Among female victims, 30 percent reported that they were first raped between 11 and 17 years of age, and 12 percent reported being raped at age 10 or younger. Among males, 28 percent of victims were first raped when they were 10 or younger. These heinous crimes have got to stop.”
McCall is right. And we all can help stop these monstrous childhood violations by being privy to the ways of pedophiles and not turning a blind eye or fearing to report them, anonymously or otherwise, if we suspect such immoral behavior is occurring in our families, neighborhoods or spheres of influence.
And if you’re a victim, you can fight to do what Kayla Harrison did. In last week’s article, I began to detail how she overcame years of sexual abuse by her trusted family friend and coach.
Though I encourage you to go online to read her own words in Part 1, those first two lessons were:
- Don’t let being a victim define or paralyze you; rather, use it as a catalyst and fuel for victory.
- Surround yourself with people who will push – and sometimes even pull – you toward your goals.
Here are a few more inspiring lessons that Kayla’s life and actions teach us:
Make a commitment to keep stepping forward, however small the baby steps or reeling the relapses; mark your progress; celebrate the small victories and the major milestones.
Kayla explained that her healing is an ongoing process; it didn’t happen all at once. In fact, far from it. It was a long, grueling climb out of the pit from abused girl to Olympic gold.
She explained: “It wasn’t one particular moment. It was a collection of moments. It was my teammates picking me up and making me go to practice and making me go to lifting. It was Jimmy getting me back in school and me going to see a therapist. And me sort of collecting the pieces of my life and putting them back together.”
Constantly visualize your recovery, goals and a better day.
As she sat by her coaches, Jimmy Pedro and Jimmy Sr., Kayla testified to AOL Sports News: “We practice a lot of visualization, and every night before I go to sleep, I would walk through my day, and I would picture my Olympic journey, and I would picture every moment of it.
“So to have it happen, to have that clock tick down, to have it say, ‘Kayla Harrison, winner,’ was amazing. I couldn’t have done it without Jimmy, I couldn’t have done it without his father.”
All the way up to the very day she won her Olympic gold, Pedro explained to The Guardian, he must have given Kayla the same pep talk 150 times throughout that day: “There’s one girl in front of you. That’s all we worry about is that one girl. Are you better than her? Are you stronger than her? Are you tougher than her? Yeah? Well, then, go beat her, because she’s in your way to be an Olympic champion.”
Help others through your tragedy-to-triumph story.
Kayla’s catalyst to help others came from watching the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, especially when students came out in support of Coach Joe Paterno rather than the victims of Sandusky.
As she explained to Time: “I saw a lot of things that really pissed me off. I decided I wasn’t going to sit around and take it anymore.”
Since then, Kayla has been courageously retelling her traumatic story in order to encourage others to face their fears and gain the gold in their own lives. She’s been paying it forward – what the Pedros and her fellow teammates did for her.
She explained: “It’s scary. It’s really scary to be someone they trust you with that. But I want to be the one that they come to. I want to be someone who can change their life, and fix it, and make it better. I want to be what the Pedros were for me, and show somebody that there are good people in the world, who do the right thing no matter what, and prosper in the end.”
She added: “I want to help kids overcome being victims. I want to help change the sport and change people’s lives.”
Never give up!
Kayla’s message to others is this: “Never give up on your dreams. … I mean, if I can do it, anybody can do it. Things have happened, but now, my life is a dream. I’m living my dream right now.”
Kayla is vivid proof of what the Good Book says: What others mean for harm, God and you can definitely turn around and use for the good.
Her story can be all of our story: that beauty can come from ashes – that gold can emerge from the garbage heaps in our lives.
For a more holistic medical approach, my wife, Gena, and I recommend Sierra Integrative Medical Center, in Reno, Nev. The people there are pioneers in integrative medicine. They blend the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative therapies.