Local gold medalist Kayla Harrison survived sexual abuse. Her reaction to Larry Nassar: ‘Those girls will live with scars forever’


Two-time Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison, a victim of sexual abuse by her judo coach, applauded the 150 victims of a former sports doctor for their powerful statements that led to former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar’s 40- to 175-year sentence on Wednesday.

“I’m really proud and impressed by the survivors,” Harrison told this news outlet during a phone interview Thursday from her home in Boston.

“They are like an army of survivors. I have said this a million times, but sexual abuse is awful, and I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. This type of abuse affects you for the rest of your life. Those girls will live with scars forever. No amount of jail time can fix that.”

MORE HARRISON: Middletown’s Kayla Harrison overcomes years of torment to reach the Olympics

Harrison, 27, a Middletown native, was sexually abused by Daniel Doyle, her longtime Centerville judo instructor and the supposed family friend, from the time she was 13 to 16. Doyle was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2007. He recently was released, and Harrison said she has had no contact with him.

“In my mind back then I still felt it was my fault,” Harrison said during a 2012 interview. “I felt I had done something wrong, and if he was going to jail, I should be in trouble, too. That it took two to tango. I thought it had been a real relationship — that he loved me and I loved him. I thought I was going to marry him.”

MORE HARRISON: Middletown cheers Kayla Harrison to another Olympic gold

She has survived because of the “strong, positive role models” around her. She also had Olympic gold medal goals that she accomplished at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. In 2012, she became the first American to win gold in judo.

A month after Kayla’s mother, Jeannie Yazell, found out about the long, abusive relationship, she overruled other family members and relocated her daughter to Massachusetts so she could continue with her sport under the tutelage of Jimmy Pedro, the fabled U.S. judo Olympian, and his well-respected father, Big Jim Pedro.

MORE HARRISON: Kayla Harrison shares inspiring message with Middletown crowd

Harrison has written a book entitled, “Fighting Back,” which will be released this spring. She has traveled the world talking about sexual abuse and its signs.

“It doesn’t define me,” she said of her past. “I’m a victim, but also a survivor. I’m only a victim if I allow myself. We are survivors, and we must use that as fuel for the future.”

By telling her story, Harrison hopes to “make an impact on the world.” After speaking engagements, women have told her they were sexually assaulted years before, and one young woman handed her a note that read: “I was raped a month ago.”

Harrison said she’s friends with some of the U.S. gymnasts, those Nassar sexually assaulted. When news came out about Nassar and the extent of the assaults, Harrison said she was “shocked as the rest of the world. We need to educate our society so that people realize you cannot stay silent. If you do, you are just as bad, and that is unforgivable.”

» THE LATEST ON THE CASE: Lawmaker: Michigan State University president’s resignation ‘important step’

The sentencing of Nassar and the national media attention it attracted, was “a very, very big step for our society,” Harrison said. “This is a problem that needs to be addressed. It’s unspeakable what happened.”

When Judge Rosemarie Aquilina handed down the sentence in Lansing, Mich., this week, she said to Nassar: “I just signed your death warrant.” Harrison said she was “proud” of the judge and her sentence.

When asked about advice for young athletes and their parents, Harrison said athletes should never be left alone for long periods with their coaches. Parents should know their kids’ coaches and their backgrounds, she said.

“You wouldn’t give keys to your car to a stranger,” she said. “Why would you ever give your kids to a stranger just because you want the next Michael Jordan, the next Gabby Douglas, the next Tiger Woods? It doesn’t make sense. Keep the dialogue open. Make sure your children can talk to you about everything.”

Harrison said she’s training to make her MMA debut, possibly this summer, though a date has not been set.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Philip Roth dead at 85: Writers, public figures remember Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Philip Roth dead at 85: Writers, public figures remember Pulitzer Prize-winning author

Philip Roth – the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "American Pastoral" and other highly acclaimed works such as "Portnoy's Complaint," "The Human Stain" and "The Plot Against America" – has died of congestive heart failure, The Associated Press reported late Tuesday. He was 85. Fellow writers...
Investigation underway after woman is shot in Dayton 
Investigation underway after woman is shot in Dayton 

UPDATE @ 1:35 a.m: Dayton police are investigating after a woman was shot in Dayton early Wednesday morning. Crews were dispatched to the 500 block of Bentley Street around 1 a.m. on a person shot, per initial reports. Officials told this news outlet that they are working to learn if the woman was shot at the dispatched address or another location...
WPAFB Wednesday Weather: Sunny skies, lower humidity for the day
WPAFB Wednesday Weather: Sunny skies, lower humidity for the day

WRIGHT PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE—Storms have officially moved out of the area for the time being as calmer conditions move in. Skies will be mostly sunny for the day and lower humidity is expected.  Temperatures reach into the upper 70s.  Pleasant conditions continue through Friday with increasing humidity. 
UPDATE: 1 stabbed during fight between 2 males in northern Warren County
UPDATE: 1 stabbed during fight between 2 males in northern Warren County

UPDATE @ 11:20 p.m.: One male was stabbed in a fight with another male, who suffered facial injuries in the fracas, Franklin Police Chief Russ Whitman said in a prepared statement. Both males have been taken to an area hospital to be treated for non-life threatening injuries, the chief said.  Police and medic units were dispatched to the 100 block...
Smoking blamed for Dayton house fire, arson investigator determines
Smoking blamed for Dayton house fire, arson investigator determines

UPDATE @ 11:40 p.m.: Smoking is to blame for the house fire on Elliott Avenue that has displaced three occupants, a Dayton arson investigator said.  The occupants have made living arrangements because they cannot go back into the home, the investigator said.  The fire is not believed to be suspicious, the investigator said.  He could...
More Stories