Rachael Denhollander was the first person to publicly shed her anonymity and come forward with allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of Dr. Lawrence “Larry” Nassar, the former team physician for USA gymnastics. Denhollander, a former Olympic gymnast, led the way for over 150 women and girls to testify against Nassar in the courtroom, each accusing Nassar of sexual misconduct.
Denhollander’s motives for filing suit against Nassar were questioned by his defense attorney, who asked Denhollander if she was suing Nassar for money. As hotair.com explains, Denhollander held her ground and dismissed the idea that she was motivated by money. Denhollander was undeterred, and she pressed forward even when people attempted to discredit her and refused to believe her. The first to come forward, it was only appropriate that Denhollander would be the last person to deliver her victim impact statement at Nassar’s sentencing hearing in Michigan. After she finished delivering her statement, the courtroom erupted in applause and gave Denhollander a standing ovation. To call it a powerful moment would be a gross understatement.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Denhollander Was Just 15 Years Old When Nassar Began Sexually Molesting Her Under The Guise of Treating Her Chronic Back Pain
Rachael Denhollander, a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was just 15 years old when she was sent to Nassar for treatment of her chronic back pain as a result of her brutal, rigorous, top-tier Olympic training. Nassar was a renowned doctor with an excellent reputation, and Denhollander’s family was grateful when he agreed to treat her at his MSU clinic, mlive.com reports.
Nassar, now 53, worked with Olympic gymnasts for decades before treating Denhollander. Prior to the scandal that would erupt in 2016 when the allegations were first brought against him, he was a respected physician with a good reputation and a pillar of his Michigan community. He was a faculty member at Michigan State University and belonged to many charitable and philanthropic organizations. He is a family man; ostensibly, Nassar has all the qualities of being an upstanding citizen. In 2000, there was no reason to hesitate before seeing Dr. Nassar for treatment. IndyStar outlines Nassar’s shocking fall from grace.
2. Denhollander’s Mother Was in The Room With Her The First Time She Was Abused By Nassar, But He Obstructed Her View and Molested Her Anyway
Denhollander’s first appointment with Dr. Nassar was in January of 2000. Her mother, Camille Moxon, sat in the corner of Dr. Nassar’s examination room where Rachael was being seen to make her feel more comfortable. Mlive.com states that Dr. Nassar intended to treat her with a technique called myofascial release, but needed to realign Rachael’s hips first. It was then that something horrible happened.
“Nassar had Denhollander stand next to the exam table with her legs apart, she recalled. While massaging her hip area with one hand, Nassar slipped his other hand up her shorts and underwear and, without warning, used two fingers to digitally penetrate her vagina, Denhollander said,” according to mlive. Nassar had positioned himself in such a way that Rachael’s mother could not see what he was doing. Denhollander described feeling as if she were frozen, completely in disbelief about what had just happened to her.
Rachael continued being seen by Dr. Nassar on a regular basis, and she states that he continued to abuse her each time. In a twisted detail, Denhollander said that Nassar let Denhollander play with his infant daughter as a way to gain her trust, knowing that Denhollander loved children. After a year, Rachael finally told her mother, Camille Moxon, that Nassar had been molesting her.
“Moxon was shocked. But they hesitated to call police, figuring it was Rachael’s word against a well-respected doctor,” mlive.com continues. “‘Nassar was (MSU’s) golden boy. He was USAG’s golden boy. He was so loved in the community that I was very sure … I would be crucified and he would end up empowered to know he couldn’t get caught.'”
3. Denhollander Came Forward After Another Former Patient of Nassar’s Filed Suit Against Him Alleging Sexual Misconduct; The Plaintiff Brought Suit Against Nassar As Jane Doe to Protect Her Identity
A copy of the complaint filed by Jane doe can be found in its entirety on DocumentCloud.
Rachael made the decision to identify herself publicly in her lawsuit against Nassar. Unafraid of any repercussions and intimidation, Denhollander knew that she had the truth behind her. 156 other survivors of sexual abuse at Nassar’s hands testified against him at trial. There is no doubt that without Denhollander, many of these women may have been intimidated into silence. Rachael described going against Nassar in court as a “shot in the dark” according to Deadspin. However, it was a shot she was willing to take.
4. Rachael’s Victim Impact Statement Resulted in an Eruption of Applause From The Courtroom & a Standing Ovation.
The courtroom was filled with tears and applause, as well as praise from the judge. Denhollander was lauded for her bravery in coming forward against Nassar, and for her persistence in the pursuit of justice and simply standing up against a person in a position of power who was accused of abusing and victimizing patients who trusted him to properly care for them. 156 people testified against Nassar during his sentencing hearing. At times Nassar appeared to dab at tears in his eyes, and other times he appeared to sit still without showing any emotion.
Judge Rosemarie Aqualina slammed Nassar during his sentencing hearing, stating “I just signed your death warrant,” according to CNN. Nassar may receive a sentence of up to 175 years.
5. Denhollander Draws Strength From And Takes Solace in Her Family
Denhollander, now 32, says that her family is her “safe place.” She is married to her husband Jacob and they have two young children together.
Additionally, according to Deadspin, Denhollander went on to earn her J.D. and is now a practicing attorney and advocate. She has since relocated from Michigan to Kentucky with her husband Jacob and their three children and has remained an unstoppable force.
It is no surprise that Denhollander is considered to be an excellent attorney. When she first addressed the court, she posed the question, “how much is a little girl worth?” Powerful words from a powerful woman.