When Olympic gold medal gymnast McKayla Maroney first came forward about her sex abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar, she remarkably issued a to-do list.
Disclosure was not enough for her; rather, she was already setting out a plan to make sure it never happened again. That was also not her last word on the topic, as she continues to speak out. Now Olympic gold medalist in judo Kayla Harrison has co-authored a book everyone who works with children needs to read, Fighting Back: But if faced with courage, need not be lived again. As I explained here , there is a lot of legal reform needed.
This is a book for parents, athletes, and everyone else struggling to make some sense of the child sex abuse epidemic. Her diary entries are interspersed with explanatory commentary by her co-authors, which explains what she was going through from a psychological-medical perspective. This is a very ambitious book, and it largely succeeds. Kaplan and Agiurre could have simply explained what Kayla said, but they go further, citing the most recent studies and showing that there is science behind their interpretation of the facts.
Studies are frequently cited and explained, but not for fellow scientists and doctors. Instead, the book is highly readable and expressed in a way that the average reader is not intimidated by the science but informed by it. Harrison does not only tell her story, though.
There is copious advice on how to identify child sex abuse and how to support the victim by all three authors. Harrison herself has thought deeply about these issues, leading to some insightful proposals of her own. These are sound prescriptions. There are other segments of the book where the authors in an easy-to-read chart suggest better ways of talking to a child one suspects was abused.
The authors then take the reader on a journey through what happens after the victim discloses: And they close with overarching suggestions about child sex abuse education in schools and communities. This is a very ambitious book, and one well worth reading. It should be mandatory for teachers, coaches, youth-serving organizations, and every parent intent on preventing the sexual abuse of their children.
They are simply not going to let the child sex abuse tragedy be anything other than another extraordinary challenge to overcome.