A former gymnast is offering forgiveness for the unspeakable crimes Larry Nassar has been convicted of – and she’s being recognized by the media for it.
On Wednesday, Rachael Denhollander was the last of 156 victims to make a statement against a now-sentenced sexual abuser, former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. And her powerful message, one of grace and courage, is making waves in the national media.
The 33-year-old lives in Kentucky, with her husband Jacob, as a coach, lawyer and mom of three kids. Four, if you count her unborn baby (she’s pregnant, according to IndyStar writers!). She was the first woman to file a criminal complaint against Nassar in 2016, who has been sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.
“He penetrated, he groped me, he fondled me,” she remembered Wednesday of when she was a 15-year-old gymnast. “And then he whispered questions about how it felt.”
But that wasn’t all she said. She began her 36-minute statement by asking “How much is a little girl worth?” and went on to reference the Bible.
That’s because, earlier, she had noticed Nassar bring a Bible into the courtroom.
“If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit,” she said. “By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way,”
Pointing to Jesus’ Biblical words on protecting children, she warned Nassar of the “final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you.”
“Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you. I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.”
From there, she cited C.S. Lewis, “where he says, my argument against God was that the universe seems so cruel and unjust. But how did I get this idea of just, unjust?”
“Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was,” she stressed. “And I can call it evil because I know what goodness is. And this is why I pity you.”
“Larry, you have shut yourself off from every truly beautiful and good thing in this world that could have and should have brought you joy and fulfillment, and I pity you for it. You could have had everything you pretended to be. Every woman who stood up here truly loved you as an innocent child, real genuine love for you, and it did not satisfy.”
According to her, she concluded, a little girl is worth “everything.”
Denhollander’s courage garnered a standing ovation at the Ingham County Circuit Court and praise from Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.
“You made all of this happen,” the judge commended. “You made all of these voices matter. Your sister survivors and I thank you. You are the greatest person I’ve ever had in my courtroom.”
Her words didn’t go unnoticed by the media either – especially in a piece by writer Lori Johnston for The Washington Post, which profiled the woman who “helped bring down Larry Nassar” while speaking about her faith. (The piece also noted that, in the past, Denhollander has written on religion and on abortion for sites including pro-life Live Action.)
The New York Times recognized her as the “single voice” that “eventually raised an army.” USA Today praised her “courage” in its headline. Time hailed the “emotional statement.” The New York Post called her the “true hero of the Nassar trial.”
“This was always how it was meant to end,” wrote Dvora Meyers for Deadspin. “So many of the women who had testified over the last seven days said that it was Denhollander’s story that inspired them to come forward.”