Fighting Back

What an Olympic Champion's Story Can Teach Us about Recognizing and Preventing Child Sexual Abuse—and Helping Kids Recover

Kayla Harrison, Cynthia S. Kaplan, and Blaise Aguirre

HardcoverPaperbacke-bookprint + e-book
May 2, 2018
ISBN 9781462535699
Price: $55.00
246 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
May 3, 2018
ISBN 9781462532971
Price: $14.95
246 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
April 11, 2018
ePub and PDF ?
Price: $14.95
246 Pages
print + e-book
Paperback + e-Book (ePub and PDF) ?
Price: $29.90 $16.45
246 Pages

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison has always been a fighter—yet as a young teen, no one knew she was also a victim. Combining Kayla's powerful story of sexual abuse by her judo coach with science-based information from two renowned therapists, this unique book provides critical guidance for parents and professionals. Learn how to spot the signs that a child or teen is being groomed, why kids stay silent about their trauma, how they struggle with self-blame and the brutal betrayal of a trusted authority figure, and exactly what kind of help they need to recover. No one is more qualified than Kayla and her expert coauthors to explain the impact of child sexual abuse—and what you can do to keep kids safe.

“This book provides a unique perspective on coping with trauma and helping victims of child sexual abuse (CSA)….This book has value for educators, therapists, health care staff, those who work closely with children, and parents. This book would also be beneficial to those who are experienced in helping victims of CSA, as they can learn more information about how the victim views and then copes with trauma. This book would also be good for victims—to help them cope with their experience and recognize that other victims have been in the same situation and gone on to thrive.”

Journal of Child and Family Studies

“A gift of inestimable value for parents and others concerned about the scourge of childhood sexual abuse. If only this book had been available when my children were young, I might have recognized the causes of my daughter’s suffering—and been able to stop the abuse. It reveals the warning signs of a child or teen being lured or abused, how to talk to children about their safety in a nonjudgmental way, and how to get help. Kayla courageously shares how a survivor thinks about her experience and can heal from it.”

—Muriel T., Toronto, Canada

“A much-needed look into a very complex topic that desperately needs to be addressed. As someone who personally experienced abuse, I know the isolation and shame it can bring. Reading Kayla’s personal account, I had the feeling of being understood. My symptoms were a normal response to an abnormal situation. Although recovery is a long process, Kayla shows us that it is indeed possible. This book has the power to restore hope and save lives.”

—Cassandra P., Plymouth, Massachusetts

“One of those rare books that will both capture your heart and feed your mind. The story of Kayla's personal struggle is painful and emotionally powerful. The timing of this book is perfect—our society needs to see these issues with the clarity and courage of Kayla Harrison and address them with the wisdom of Drs. Aguirre and Kaplan.”

—Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD, Senior Fellow, The ChildTrauma Academy

Fighting Back is packed with powerful lessons for parents and survivors, as well as professionals who work with children. As a father, I was deeply moved by Kayla's experiences; her eloquent journal entries tore at my heart. As a school psychologist, I appreciated the knowledge and guidance of Drs. Kaplan and Aguirre, who explain the essentials of education and evidence-based treatment. Kayla’s story is ultimately one of hope—it shows how survivors can emerge with dignity and resilience.”

—Richard Lieberman, MA, NCSP, Lecturer, Graduate School of Education, Loyola Marymount University

“A comprehensive resource for anyone faced with the devastating impact of childhood sexual abuse, including survivors, their families, and professionals. Kayla Harrison’s lived experience is interwoven with information and advice from two treatment experts in this compelling book.”

—Melanie Harned, PhD, ABPP, VA Puget Sound Health Care System and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington

Table of Contents



1. How Child Sexual Abuse Begins

2. Keeping the Secret

3. The Tipping Point: Breaking the Silence

4. Freedom with Its Own Chains: What to Expect after Disclosure

5. Recovery: A Long and Winding Road

6. Find the Way to Professional Help

7. From Victim to Survivor

8. How We Can Help: Prevention and Education



About the Authors

Kayla Harrison began training in judo at age 6 and is the first American ever to win an Olympic gold medal in the sport, which she did in both 2012 and 2016. Yet her competitive success masked an unimaginable personal struggle. At the age of 16, she revealed that she had been sexually abused by her coach for years. Today, Kayla uses her gold medal profile, voice, and example, as well as her Fearless Foundation, to encourage and empower other survivors of child sexual abuse. Now retired from competing in judo, Kayla is moving into mixed martial arts with the Professional Fighters League. She lives and trains in Boston.

Cynthia S. Kaplan, PhD, is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Director of Trauma Training and Consultation in the Simches Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at McLean Hospital. She has worked with numerous survivors of child sexual abuse and is coauthor of Helping Your Troubled Teen.

Blaise Aguirre, MD, is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Medical Director of the 3East Dialectical Behavior Therapy program at McLean Hospital. He treats many adolescents who have been sexually abused and is author of Borderline Personality Disorder in Adolescents: What To Do When Your Teen Has BPD.


Concerned parents; also of interest to survivors of childhood sexual abuse and to teachers, school psychologists, therapists, counselors, and other professionals who work with children and families.