Over the last week I have experienced anger, frustration, numbness, grief, and sadness as I watched more than 150 survivors of sexual abuse courageously face Larry Nassar in the courtroom and deliver victim impact statements.
The final victim testimony came from Rachael Denhollander. Denhollander was the first survivor to file a police report against Larry Nassar. It’s quite fitting that the woman who first brought this man’s evil actions into the light by filing a police report would be the last to face him in the courtroom.
Her testimony stood out from the other 163 because what she said directly to Larry Nassar was such a profound response to the trauma she endured from him. Her victim impact statement is a testimony to the grace, power, forgiveness, and justice only available through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here is a portion of what she said:
I want you to understand why I made this choice, knowing full well what it was going to cost to get here, and with very little hope of ever succeeding. I did it because it was right. No matter the cost. It was right.
And the farthest I can run from what you have become is to daily choose what is right, instead of what I want.
You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires. A man defined by his daily choices over and over again to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others. And the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially. No matter what it costs me.
In our early hearings you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness, and so it is on that basis that I appeal to you:
If you have read the Bible you carry, you know that 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.
You spoke of praying for forgiveness, but 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 it’s utter depravity and horror, without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen in this courtroom today.
The Bible you carry says it is better for a millstone to be thrown around your neck, and you thrown into a lake, then for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds. The Bible you speak of carries a final judgment where all of God's wrath and his 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 that 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.
Throughout this process I have clung to a quote by CS Lewis where he says,
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of unjust and just? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was, and I know it was evil, and wicked, because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else's perception, and this means, I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation and I can call it evil because I know what goodness is.
And this is why I pity you, because when a person loses the ability to define good and evil, when they cannot define evil, they can no longer define and enjoy what is truly good. When a person can harm another human being, especially a child, without true guilt, they have lost the ability to truly love.
Larry, you have shut yourself off from every truly beautiful and good thing in this world, that could have, and should have brought you joy and fulfillment. And I pity you for it. You could have had everything you pretended to be. Every woman who stood up here truly loved you as an innocent child. Real genuine love for you and it did not satisfy.
I have experienced the soul satisfying joy of a marriage built on sacrificial love, and safety, and tenderness, and care. I have experienced true intimacy in its deepest joy's and it is beautiful and sacred and glorious and that is a joy you have cut yourself off from ever experiencing and I pity you for it.
The 40-175 years that Nassar will spend in prison will not give the survivors their stolen innocence back. But the truth of the gospel can shed light into even the darkest of places.
It provides healing and hope for the weary. Genesis 50:20 reminds us that what others might intend for evil, God can transform into good. This is a truth that Denhollander is so vividly living out. Despite the traumatic abuse that she faced at the hands of Nassar, she is a voice of grace, truth, and justice.
Today, I am so thankful for the courage and boldness of Rachael Denhollander. Her words will make an impact beyond the courtroom—they are impacting eternity.