Rachael Denhollander, on surviving coach Larry Nassar's abuse and her faith
My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth About Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics
Anna Grummitt recommends What is a Girl Worth? My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth About Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics by Rachael Denhollander as an Eternity Summer Read.
January 24, 2018. It’s the final day of the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, the now-infamous USA Gymnastics doctor who sexually assaulted hundreds of girls and young women under the guise of medical treatment. There’s been a week of emotional testimonies from 150 survivors of his abuse, and now, Rachael Denhollander approaches the microphone to speak.
She doesn’t know it yet, but the video of her statement is about to go viral.
I devoured this book in just two days earlier this year, it was so compelling. Denhollander walks readers through her life: from the beginnings of her love of gymnastics watching the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, to her subsequent training, her appointments with Nassar, and all that came after.
Throughout the book, she poignantly describes the emotional and psychological impact of her abuse – from anxiety, fear, and nightmares; to frustration, anger, shame, and self-blame.
Unsurprisingly, What is a Girl Worth? is harrowing and heartbreaking at times – but it’s also filled with glimpses of goodness and hope …
She also carefully dismantles questions (or accusations) commonly thrown at survivors, such as “Why didn’t you say something sooner?” And, in her account of the long process it took to bring Nassar to justice, she confronts readers with the appalling responses of powerful organisations to abuse within their ranks, giving us a window into the uphill battle survivors face to receive justice.
Unsurprisingly, What is a Girl Worth? is harrowing and heartbreaking at times – but it’s also filled with glimpses of goodness and hope, particularly in Denhollander’s account of the development of her relationship with her now-husband Jacob.
I also greatly appreciated the way Denhollander weaves her faith journey through the story. From her own journal entries, she shows us how this journey has involved deep questioning and wrestling to ultimately arrive at a place of trust in God’s love and justice. Remarkably, this is a place where she’s willing to extend forgiveness to Nassar.
What is a Girl Worth? is a memoir, but it’s also more than that. It’s an important book for everyone to read, since it sheds a light on how many predators operate, and how organisations so often enable them by minimising, dismissing, or distorting victims’ complaints.
I believe this book is especially important for the church, as the Royal Commission has shown us that child abuse is by no means limited to secular organisations. Denhollander’s book challenges the church to spare no effort to protect the vulnerable in our midst – to listen to them, believe them, and fight for their justice, even when it’s costly – because everything is what they are worth.
What is a Girl Worth? My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth About Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics by Rachael Denhollander is available from Koorong for $31.99 (hardback) and $26.21 (e Book). It is published by Tyndale Momentum.