Kayla Harrison made history at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics when she defended her 2012 title and became the first American in history to win two gold medals in judo.
With that accomplishment, Harrison became a hero not only to aspiring athletes but to sexual abuse survivors everywhere.
Harrison first spoke out about her experience with abuse in a 2011 USA Todaystory published before her London Olympics win that earned her the title of America’s first-ever judo gold medalist.
She was sexually abused from the age of 13 to 15 while training under judo coach Daniel Doyle, who is currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2007 to one count of “engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place,” according to USA Today.
Now, Harrison is focusing on fighting child sexual abuse through theFearless Foundation, which she created to “shine a light on the darkness that is child sexual abuse and to enrich the lives of survivors through education and sport.”
On Wednesday, Harrison hosted a fundraiser at Central Wharf Co. in Boston, where she met with fans to take pictures and sign autographs.
The Fearless Foundation is currently developing an educational tool “to help survivors understand that they are not alone and to empower them with the strength to come forward and seek the help that is available,” Harrison said on her site.
After Doyle was sentenced, Harrison moved from Ohio toMassachusetts (she currently resides in Danvers)to train with former Olympian Jimmy Pedro. Pedro hascoached her to two gold medals, and he and his father became a “surrogate family” to Harrison, she has said.
“There is a lot of stuff going on, and it’s just in its infancy,” Harrison told ABC about her foundation. “Being a two-time Olympic champion is an amazing thing, but the Fearless Foundation isn’t about me; it’s about helping people who need help. And essentially being to someone else what the Pedros were to me. They saved my life and changed my life.”