Editor's note: Denhollander's testimony and the transcript from it contains intense content. Viewer discretion is advised.
The victim impact statements ended in the trial of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar today (January 24). For his acts of criminal sexual conduct, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced him to between 40 and 175 years in prison, telling him, “It is my honor and privilege to sentence you.”
Judge Aquilina opened the courtroom to any of Nassar’s victims who wanted to address him and over 150 victims took the opportunity to do so during the almost weeklong hearing. Nassar objected to the statements and accused Judge Aquilina of overseeing a “media circus," but the Judge replied, “Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor, considering the hours of pleasure you had at their expense and ruining their lives.”
Rachael Denhollander, the first victim to speak out about Nassar’s abuse, spoke last at the hearing.
Denhollander, an attorney and mother of three, spoke on behalf of all of the victims as she asked Judge Aquilina to consider one important question as she handed down her sentence, “How much is a little girl worth? How much is a young woman worth?”
She chronicled the delight Nassar took in grooming his victims and how he showed no remorse for his actions. She said Nassar found, “sexual satisfaction in our suffering.” Then she addressed the Judge again, saying, “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.”
Denhollander addressed Nassar directly, reminding him of the times he brought a Bible to the initial hearings. “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.”
She continued, encouraging Nassar to recognize his need for repentance. “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.”
Then Denhollander made a clear Gospel appeal to her accuser, encouraging him to recognize the depth of his sin and pointing him to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. “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.”
Denhollander closed with a direct appeal to the Judge, asking her to impose the maximum sentence under the law, “because everything is what these survivors are worth.”
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Siri Stafford
Publication date: January 24, 2018