Rachael Denhollander had no intention of reliving her sexual abuse on a national scale. She’d lived through it, processed it and come to terms with the fact that sports doctor Larry Nassar had abused her when she sought treatment from him.
“I’d already sacrificed my privacy and my dignity,” said Denhollander, who was the first victim to publicly accuse the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor. Her public accusation ended with Nassar sentenced to life in prison and hundreds of victims coming forward at his sentencing.
“It never crossed my mind to write a book about the process we went through, but I did a cost/benefit analysis to weigh the potential for the book to do good against having to relive the abuse,” Denhollander said. “The good that can come from it will hopefully outweigh the painful process of writing it.”
“What Is a Girl Worth? My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth About Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics” was released in September by Tyndale Momentum. At the same time, Tyndale Kids released Denhollander’s picture book “How Much Is a Little Girl Worth?” The picture book is based on a poem she wrote “out of a deep need to answer a question I had been asking for the past two years: ‘How much is a little girl worth?’”
Denhollander brings together her background in law and public policy and her understanding of what a victim goes through to create a book that is heart-wrenching and full of strength; that speaks truth to churches, law enforcement and institutions that would keep victims quiet; and that speaks to the heart of every girl who has been abused and is afraid to speak out.
“I had already wrestled through the events and found my healing and security, but introspection is always helpful,” said Denhollander, who grew up in the Kalamazoo area and now lives in Kentucky. “I wrote the book for others. It’s a deeply personal story about sexual abuse and the ramifications of abuse. The issue isn’t going away.”
One thing that weighs heavily on her, she said, is that she is a middle class, educated woman surrounded by support. “I had the support of family and friends and an understanding of the court process, and it was still horrible,” she said.
“I hope people read this story and see that if it was that hard for me, how much harder it is for those who must fight for support, fight the court, fight the assumptions and the stigma. I was a homeschooling mother of four with a good job, and I still got accusations of being in it for the money. I needed every bit of that support to move forward, and it was still an extremely difficult, uphill battle.”
She and her sister survivors had community support — more than most survivors ever have. “People need to realize that what happened with Larry’s (conviction and sentencing) is an anomaly,” she said. “It’s a miracle that the case got anywhere near where it did.”
Denhollander is working on public policy issues related to sexual abuse, speaking and writing, along with raising her and her husband Jacob’s four children.