What is a Girl Worth? 

On Wednesday morning, 24 January 2018, Rachel Denhollander gave a victim impact statement at the trial of Larry Nassar. The courtroom was packed, survivor after survivor had spoken, the pain was palpable, many tears were shed. Larry Nassar sat and listened as woman after woman told of the abuse they had suffered at his hands. It was public shaming before he received a life sentence for his crimes. Rachel spoke for forty minutes. Her voice was clear, articulate even as she fought back the tears. She expressed her agony, her sense of justice, and her desire to protect others. Rachel proclaimed her utter conviction that one day Larry would face the final day of judgement. In doing so, she made one of the most remarkable gospel appeals you will ever hear:

‘ 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 found. And it will be there for you. I pray that you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so that someday you will experience true repentance and forgiveness from God which you need far more than forgiveness from me although I extend that to you as well.’

Rachel’s statement can be viewed in full on YouTube .

How Rachel got to this point is outlined in her book ‘ What is a Girl Worth’. 

Some books need to be read even though emotionally, they are hard to hear. I put Rachel’s story in that camp. It outlines much more than the experience of sexual abuse. It raises warning flags to everyone. There is no place for complacency on this issue. Rachel, along with so many others, was abused in a place where she should have been safe. She was violated despite her parents loving care. She was let down by those she reported it to. And she faced church leaders who failed to understand and support her. She herself says that they were well-intentioned but: ‘there was simply a complete inability to understand the evidence or the impact of abuse.’

This book should disturb us. It should help us understand. It takes us to dark places. Larry Nassar was found to have 37,000 files of little girls being abused. Rachel asks:

‘Do you know how many little girls it takes to creates 37,000 images of child porn?’ 

These girls were most likely trafficked, abused by someone close to them, someone with constant access. We don’t want to know. Rachel has not given us her story to make us uncomfortable or overwhelmed but to help us take responsibility where we are able. To provide us with boldness to take responsibility when we should. To help us care for those who are hurting, to listen to their stories and give them comfort when we can. 

‘ The darkness is there, and we cannot ignore it. But we can let it point us to the light.’

Rachel has produced a study companion ‘Discover your True Worth: a Four Week Guide for Conversation and Reflection’ which is coming out 7 September. Why not plan to read this book with others?

© 2022 Karen Soole