Kiara McLaughlin, an 18-year old distance runner with 345 Athletics Club, is sharing her story of personal trauma after overcoming both tuberculosis of the lungs and a sexual assault at the age of 16.
“Anything is possible, any situation, you can overcome, if you take the right approach to it”.
McLaughlin began training with 345 Athletics Club President Derek Larner over 5 years ago. At 16, McLaughlin contracted tuberculosis of the lungs. She says the coach was there for her, in the hospital regularly, motivating her and keep her spirits high. “He’d be giving me ideas of exercises to do, telling me everything would be OK.”
In the time he’s coached McLaughlin, Larner says the young runner almost lost her way multiple times, unsure of her future in athletics.
“There were times where we’d look at Kiara and think I hope she goes onto a particular path” says Larner. The coach says signs began to emerge from McLaughlin that signaled his athlete may be experiencing some emotional distress.
“You often notice their performance on the track is not what it normally is, you start taking a closer look at that athlete. If you feel there might be something in the background, or something that’s bothering a particular athlete, of course you’re going to want to make an approach.”
The coach and his wife Laura stepped in. Feeling comfortable speaking to an older female, McLaughlin confided in Larner’s wife, revealing she was sexually assaulted. Larner gave the young runner someone to confide in, slowly working through the emotional issues caused by the assault.
“It took a lot of one-on-one time with Miss Laura, her telling me that I’m better than that.” McLaughlin and the Larners have forged a special bond. McLaughlin says the Larners are like a second family now. “If I need help, I can always call them. They’ve never let me down.”
McLaughlin says her life is a better place now. She’s continued her training on the track, while pursuing a career in personal training. McLaughlin hopes her story inspires other victims of sexual assault to speak out.
“I’m not a person who was assaulted, I am a person who recovered from an assault.”