HAMPTON, Va. (WVEC) -- One Olympic gold medalist is sparking conversations about sexual assault to the military community in Hampton Roads as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Kayla Harrison made history at the 2012 Olympics in London by being the first American to win the gold medal in judo.
Harrison was sexually assaulted at the age of 16, revealing she had been abused by her coach for years.
She spoke to Joint Base Langley-Eustis community members Friday about her experiences with assault as a part of the installation's observance events for this month.
Kayla created 'Fearless Foundation' to shine a light on child sexual abuse; enrich lives of survivors through education & sport. #13NewsNow— Niko Clemmons (@13nikoclemmons) April 14, 2017
“It was the hardest thing I ever did to speak up and have the courage to say something, but also the best thing I've ever done, and my life is completely different,” Harrison says.
Harrison says because she was surrounded by people who believed in her, she fought through the pain and overcame her sexual abuse, not letting it define her.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, or maybe a gold medal, or two,” Harrison says.
"I think about how it may have been different if there had been someone like me to show me the way,” Harrison says. “So for me it's a huge responsibility and that's why I haven't shut up since I spoke out and I won’t.”
For more of Harrison’s story, visit her website here.