Meet Rachael Denhollander.
This former gymnast turned coach and lawyer was both the first and the LAST victim to speak out against disgraced Olympic doctor, Larry Nassar.
Now, the 33-year-old is being hailed a courtroom hero for her bold move to break the silence and deliver the most powerful testimony presiding Judge Aquilina has ever seen.
“You made this happen,” said the judge. “You are the bravest person I’ve ever had in my courtroom.”
Nassar has been sentenced to 40 to 175 years for his sexual abuse crimes, but arguably none of this would have been made possible without Rachael’s bravery.
In 2016, she read an article in The Star regarding USA Gymnastics inappropriately handling sexual abuse allegations. At the time, not a single girl who had been abused by Nassar during his reign as their team doctor had come forward.
Shortly after, The Star published a piece about Nassar with the sexual-abuse reports of two former gymnasts—one who chose to stay anonymous, and one who attached her name to the allegations: Rachael Denhollander. All alone. With no one to back her… yet.
But it was her voice that eventually gave over 150 girls the courage to come forth, detailing the traumatic effects Nassar’s abuse guised as “therapy” has had on their lives.
Over the course of seven days, 156 people gave victim impact statements—but none could quite compare to the unshakeable testimony of Rachael Denhollander.
Judge Aquilina called her the “five-star general for an army of abuse survivors.”
Her 36-minute testimony threaded with Godly wisdom and spoken in equal parts love, truth, and justice is nothing short of inspiring and downright incredible.
Read a poignant excerpt from Rachael’s testimony below and see the full transcript at CNN:
“The cost, emotional and physical, to see this through has been greater than many would ever know. And Larry, I don’t need to tell you what the cost of your abuse has been to me because you got to read my journals, every word of them. Because those had to go into evidence to make this happen.
I want you to understand why I made this choice knowing full well what it was going to cost to get here and with very little hope of ever succeeding. I did it because it was right. No matter the cost, it was right. And the farthest I can run from what you have become is to daily choose what is right instead of what I want.
You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires, a man defined by his daily choices repeatedly to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others and the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially, no matter what it costs me.
In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. 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. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.
You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.
If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.
The Bible you speak carries a 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.
Throughout this process, I have clung to a quote by 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? A man does not call a line crooked unless he first has some idea of straight. What was I comparing the universe to when I called it unjust?
Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was. And I know it was evil and wicked because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else’s perception, and this means I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation. And I can call it evil because I know what goodness is. And this is why I pity you. Because when a person loses the ability to define good and evil, when they cannot define evil, they can no longer define and enjoy what is truly good.
When a person can harm another human being, especially a child, without true guilt, they have lost the ability to truly love. 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.
I have experienced the soul satisfying joy of a marriage built on sacrificial love and safety and tenderness and care. I have experienced true intimacy in its deepest joys, and it is beautiful and sacred and glorious. And that is a joy you have cut yourself off from ever experiencing, and I pity you for it.
I have been there for young gymnasts and helped them transform from awkward little girls to graceful, beautiful, confident athletes and taken joy in their success because I wanted what was best for them. And this is a joy you have cut yourself off from forever because your desire to help was nothing more than a facade for your desire to harm.
I have lived the deep satisfaction of wrapping my small children up in my arms and making them feel safe and secure because I was safe, and this is a rich joy beyond what I can express, and you have cut yourself off from it, because you were not safe. And I pity you for that.
In losing the ability to call evil what it is without mitigation, without minimization, you have lost the ability to define and enjoy love and goodness. You have fashioned for yourself a prison that is far, far worse than any I could ever put you in, and I pity you for that.
And this is also why in many ways, your honor, the worst part of this process was each name, each number who came forward to the police with each Jane Doe, I saw my little girls and the little girls that were. The little girls who walked into Larry’s office that I could not save because no one wanted to listen. And while that is not my guilt, it is pain I still carry and pain I share with them.
I cried for them, and with every tear that fell I wondered who is going to find these little girls, who is going to tell them how much they are worth, how valuable they are, how deserving of justice and protection?
Who is going to tell these little girls that what was done to them matters? That they are seen and valued, that they are not alone and they are not unprotected? And I could not do that, but we are here now and today that message can be sent with the sentence you hand down you can communicate to all these little girls and to every predator to every little girl or young woman who is watching how much a little girl is worth.”
“Judge Aquilina, I plead with you as you deliberate the sentence to give Larry, send a message that these victims are worth everything. In order to meet both the goals of this court. I plead with you to impose the maximum sentence under the plea agreement because everything is what these survivors are worth. Thank you.”