Written by Rachael Denhollander, recipient of Sports Illustrated's Inspiration of the Year Award and one of Time's 100 Most Influential People (2018).
"Who is going to tell these little girls that what was done to them matters? That they are seen and valued, that they are not alone and they are not unprotected?"
Rachael Denhollander's voice was heard around the world when she spoke out to end the most shocking USA gymnastics scandal in history. The first victim to publicly accuse Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor who sexually abused hundreds of young athletes, Rachael now reveals her full story for the first time. How did Nassar get away with it for so long? How did Rachael and the other survivors finally stop him and bring him to justice? And how can we protect the vulnerable in our own families, churches, and communities?
What Is a Girl Worth? is the inspiring true story of Rachael's journey from an idealistic young gymnast to a strong and determined woman who found the courage to raise her voice against evil, even when she thought the world might not listen. In this crucial cultural moment of #MeToo and #ChurchToo, this deeply personal and compelling narrative shines a spotlight on the physical and emotional impact of abuse, why so many survivors are reluctant to speak out, and what it means to be believed.
Rachael Denhollander is an attorney, advocate, and educator who became known internationally as the first woman to file a police report and speak publicly against USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, one of the most prolific sexual abusers in recorded history. As a result of her activism, over 250 women came forward as survivors of Nassar’s abuse, leading to his life imprisonment. Additionally, her courageous tenacity and ongoing advocacy helped trigger a complete upheaval at both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where former executives and high-ranking officials face numerous criminal charges for their complicity in covering up Nassar’s abuse and lying about what they knew.
For her work as an advocate and educator on sexual assault, Rachael was named one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and one of Glamour Magazine’s “Women of the Year” in 2018. Additionally, she received the “Inspiration of the Year” award from Sports Illustrated, was a joint recipient of ESPN’s “Arthur Ashe Courage Award,” and was named a “Michiganian of the Year” by the Detroit News. She is the recipient of numerous other awards and recommendations, including the “CHILD Protector Award” from CHILD USA, the “Integrity and Impact Award” from Dow Jones Sports Intelligence, and HeartAmbassador’s “Lifetime Achievement Award for Contributing to Social Justice.”
Rachael has been recognized and honored in both the Kentucky and Michigan legislatures for her advocacy, and has been active in spearheading legislative reform at the state level. She has lectured and participated in live Q&A’s on the campus of numerous universities across the nation, including Harvard, Stanford, NYU, UC Berkeley, USC, and others. She continues to educate on issues of abuse through supporting and speaking at organizations that advocate for victims of sexual and domestic abuse, teaching at abuse prevention conferences, and helping companies and other institutions create safe environments for addressing abuse and harassment. A committed Christian, Rachael has also been at the forefront of condemning the problem of abuse that often plagues churches and religious organizations while working to address the underlying dynamics. Additionally, she was a panelist with a United Nations Peace Messenger Organization at the UN’s 62nd Commission on the Status of Women.
A member of the California Bar Association, Rachael has educated attorneys on the dynamics of sexual abuse at the American Bar Association’s Sports Law Forum, and was the commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony of Brandeis School of Law in Louisville, KY.
Prior to beginning her work as an advocate and educator, she worked in public policy, performed research and writing for human rights organizations, and spoke in a variety of capacities, including testifying before state judiciary committees. She has also taught in legislative action days, and authored and taught a summer camp course on appellate advocacy and judicial philosophy to talented high school students.
She has appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX News, BBC, NPR and regularly appears in national and international print media, including the Washington Post, Der Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, and the Associated Press, and is a New York Times and Vox op-ed contributor.
Rachael holds a Juris Doctorate from Oak Brook College of Law and possesses an honorary doctorate from the American University of Paris.
She, along with her husband Jacob, lives in Louisville, Kentucky with their four young children
Immense thanks to Rachael Denhollander for being brave enough to share her story. My youngest daughter was a competitive gymnast for ten years, and we have been following this story closely since it broke. My heart is shattered for what these girls went through at the hands of this doctor, but also for the fact that it was next to impossible for the perpetrator to be tried and convicted. We must do better for victims of assault of any variety, but especially those young children who are either so confused, frightened, or coerced into silence--or worse, those who are not believed or are even blamed for the assault.
This is a very, very difficult book to read. If you have a history with sexual abuse, definitely come into this reading with some emotional protection because it will likely bring so much to the forefront. I cried buckets of tears for these young ladies, and pray that their path to healing is taking place.
Rachael does not hide that her strength lies in her faith in God, but she doesn't sugar coat her deep anguish and wrestling with God to attempt to understand why evil occurs in the world. Her faith is the framework of this story, but if you don't have these same beliefs, don't let that stop you from reading this book. Because if her experiences help just one victim to have their story told, it will be worth it.
I recommend that everyone read this book. Listen to people when they communicate possible abuse. Believe them. Fight for them. Fight for the truth.
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.
If I were basing my rating solely on Rachael’s determination and bravery in coming forward to bring Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics to justice then I’d give this book a 5 star rating. However, the writing, the structure, and emphasis on some topics held me back from that being my actual rating. I’m aware this is an unfair comparison, but reading this right after finishing All the President's Men really showed off the difference in the quality of writing between the two books.
This is definitely an important read. It can help people understand why a survivor might wait a long time to come forward about their abuse. It details how someone can freeze instead having a fight or flight response. It shows how someone might not first understand what was being done to them is actually abuse. It explains how systems can end up protecting abusers instead of protecting the people they prey on.
A lot of this book is recreating conversations that Rachael had with people in her life surrounding the abuse. Most non-fiction where there aren’t actual records of what was being said just focuses on getting the gist of what was being said, even if it isn’t verbatim. The dialogue that was written in the book just came across as really stilted and not natural human conversation. Maybe this isn’t a fair criticism since I wasn’t there when she was talking to her mom as a teenager, but a lot of the writing in a lot of the book just seemed off.
Also, especially in the first half of the book I felt like there was too much time spent covering things that didn’t directly relate to “Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics.” Related to that, I wasn’t aware that there was going to be such a focus on religion in here. I don’t want to say this is a negative thing since god is obviously important to Rachael, but that’s just not something I’m interested in reading about.
I almost feel bad giving this book anything other than a completely glowing review because I do have so much respect for Rachael and everything she’s done. But just as a book, this didn’t completely work for me. I think I would’ve been better off reading a book that covered the Nassar/USA Gymnastics case as a whole rather than one person’s story.
There are a lot of memoirs in the world. When something tragic happens, it is almost expected for the victims and survivors to write a book about it, detailing their side of the story and what really happened. This is not that kind of book.
Denhollander is expertly and passionately focused on one thing: detailing what happens when people and organizations don't value children/people, particularly women and girls. This book will break you over and over again. At one point while reading (and even now) I said "I'm physically crying and I'm screaming on the inside without end.". Other readers reached out to me to tell me they were feeling the same way.
Denhollander's book isn't about MSU or the USAG. It's not even about Larry Nassar. It's about how our culture looks at, treats, and abuses females, even children. It's about how we don't listen, believe, or properly engage with abuse victims/survivors.
Simply put: we are not getting this right.
I am in awe at this book. Not just for how strong and unbelievably caring Denhollander is, but for how great of a writer she is. I checked, there's no ghostwriter. She crafted this book. Every word is poignant. As a lawyer, she knows how to build a case, and as a mother she knows how to craft a convicting story. It is so well written that I cannot adequately put my feelings to words. This has been the best book I have read this year. Hands down. It's that good.
Audiobook note: I had the privilege of listening to Denhollander read her own story/book about her own experiences. If you think reading the book is emotionally heavy, the audiobook will tear you apart (in good ways). She's a wonderful narrator. I'm glad that she trusted no one but herself to write/narrate her story. It's all the better for it.
This book really helps people see what's inside the mind of a sexual abuse victim/survivor. It immediately starts tackling the (ignorant) questions like "Why don't victims say something when it happens?". By the end of the book, I was left with a profound respect for victims and survivors and a heart that bleeds for them and others that might be affected.
On a separate note, I found the cover incredibly clever and well designed. Props to the publisher and designer for that. The hardcover book is beautiful. It should win an award.
This book also gave me a new respect for journalists and prosecutors that actually care and do their job incredibly well. In our current age, it's good to be reminded that there are sincere people out there doing great work.
I also admired Jacob in this book. What an example of a Christian husband. This is what true complementarianism (should we even use that word anymore?) looks like.
Denhollander's foundational roots in the gospel shine through in this book. On every page. This is what happens when a true Christian truly loves.
I found absolutely zero issues with this book. It was a delight, as hard as the book was to read.
What we think and believe about personhood and the inherent worth of a person matters. Denhollander does more than she needed to. In fact, she never should have needed to share her story, to keep repeating details about her abuse, day after day, interview after interview, book proof over proof. The situation never should've happened at all, and after happening she shouldn't have had to walk through and the share the details with people, over and over again. This has cost her almost everything, including her privacy. But to quote Denhollander: "The more you love, the harder you fight."
Without going into detail, this book has changed my life. The realizations and revelations have made a significant impact in my life.
I want to love more.
I want to fight more.
I want to be an oasis of care for victims and survivors.
There are victims and survivors all around us. Something has to change.
Side-note to my Reformed followers: How many books do we have to read before we realize that there are certain beliefs and connections in our reformed theology that allow for abusers to stay hidden and thrive?
"Love is the motivation that will give them joy and peace when doing the right thing is hard and hurts."
I have never read anything so powerful. All of these women I have looked up to for my entire life. Heroes. Survivors. Everything. How moving this memoir is. If you're a survivor, and you don't yet know the answer to Rachael's question of "What is a girl worth?" I hope one day you'll be able to feel her answer in every piece of your heart, mind, and soul.
A little girl is worth everything.
As a former gymnast and someone who has religiously watched every competition since 2005, I can't even begin to say how important this story is. We grow up in the sport striving for perfection, absolute perfection. We hope for that 10 and settle for a 9.9. We push ourselves to our limits physically and mentally, no matter what level we are... and that makes us vulnerable. I feel as though we become so much more mature than the kids around us simply because it's the only way to be successful. Mature in some ways, but not every way.
And what Larry did. He took advantage of that. He took advantage of the fact that we were wise beyond our years yet still so young. He took advantage of their trust that if their parents were there, nothing could be wrong. He took advantage of girls already forced to grow up much too quickly, girls with a dream, and girls who were the least likely to speak up even once they figured out what was happening to them.
Every word Rachael wrote broke my heart. Every time someone didn't believe her.. every time she was forced to stay quiet.. every time she tried to speak up, but couldn't. I think it's so incredibly wrong that when everything was finally set in motion she was pushing against a system that truly didn't want to help her. No matter how honest she was. No matter how much she shared of herself, more than she ever should have had to. It still reads as though she doesn't think her voice was enough. That every girl who spoke up about Larry just wasn't enough.
In the end, obviously, he ended up put away, and so many others were punished for what they had done to allow this to happen. But girls should never have to fight as hard as Rachael did, as hard as every girl affected by Larry's actions, to have their voice heard. People don't come forward TO THIS DAY because of the pain they have to go through in reliving their trauma over and over. If only people would believe them. Support them. Love them.
My heart is broken for my sport. For everyone who now calls themself a survivor because gymnastics didn't protect them. And I hope more than anything that one day it heals and the magic that I felt watching these girls growing up, goes on.
Three stars is not because Rachael Denhollander isn't an amazing person, who did a brave, hard thing with tenacity and intelligence. I'm having a really hard time articulating exactly what I didn't like about this book, and it's hard, so I will start with the things I liked.
1) Denhollander is very aware that if someone from a loving, supportive family had trouble coming forward, and paid in multiple ways for doing so, that those without her resources suffered even more. (Not that this is the suffering Olympics.) But she realizes that no one would believe her--with her white skin and her loving parents--that they are probably not going to believe a person of color or someone who doesn't have the same familial and financial resources she had.
2) Denhollander is a hero. Full fuking stop. She put herself through all of this so other girls would not suffer. She believes in justice, and you can feel that earnestness on every page.
Things I had trouble with:
1) Denhollander doesn't mention rape culture until page 279. She has been fighting against it for the entire book, but she doesn't write those words until almost the end. She is trying so hard not make this a political issue, but it is, oh it is. One would think in a perfect world it wouldn't be. But there is a party that has a pussy-grabber as president in chief, and it is hard to read this and not see the word "feminism" or have that idea explored at all which leads me to...
2) there is never really an acknowledgement that little girls aren't worth anything. Even though this is her lived experience. Oh, if little girls are lucky, they're worth something to their families, but little girls certainly aren't worth ruining a doctor or coach's reputation. She asks over and over again what a little girl is worth, and she knows the answer. She wants to change the answer, but again, there is no acknowledgement of the current answer. I mean 1 in 3 women wouldn't be victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, molestation or rape if girls were valued at all in this society. I think this frustrated me--she was fighting for girls to matter without ever truly admitting they didn't when she was abused and still don't. Look what justice cost her. Look at how many times and how many women had to come forward before there were any consequences at all.
3) I'm happy that Denhollander's faith helped her, but after reading about the trouble with churches that she had, it disappointed me that she couldn't see (or at least didn't put in her memoir) that the same patriarchy in the legal system, at MSU, at USAG, etc, was also the same patriarchy at the churches. When you set God up as male, and Jesus as male, churches are also buying into the fact that women are products to be used or objects. I found her faith to be childish, and I guess that could be a compliment, but I would have loved more of an acknowledgement about how even a woman's spiritual life is used against her. Denhollander experiences this in the book as a series of "bad" churches, and my heart just went, "oh honey, don't you know that they are all bad?" (Yes, I know in some traditions now women are reverends and priests, upending some of the institutional issues and some religious prevarications. I guess I would have liked thoughtful ruminations on how not being believed in a patriachal system is never going to change until women have equal power, and religion is one of the ways women have been subjugated and subverted throughout human history.)
4) Denhollander is intelligent, but I'm not sure she has the literary chops to fully articulate everything she wanted to say. Or maybe everything I wanted to hear? I guess I wanted more, and I felt she could give it, but she might have to unwrap herself from Jesus a bit to give it, and that was something she wasn't able to do. I personally find it hard to read anything religious without feeling it's a platitude. So I guess an alternate reading of this review might be that I may not be the intended reader of this memoir.
I have eagerly followed Rachael Denhollander since she first appeared “on the scene” when she bravely spoke with Christian love and wisdom at her abuser’s trial. I was so thrilled to learn she was writing a book, and so pleased to be able to get an advance copy to review for you, my friends.
I truly, truly cannot recommend this book enough. If you are an abuse survivor, you will feel seen, understood, ministered to, and pointed to Christ.
If you are married to an abuse survivor, you will see a beautiful and inspirational picture of a marriage that thrives in spite of those difficult obstacles.
If you want to know more about the struggles of abuse survivors, how their minds work, what they need the most, and how you can help, this book is for you.
If you are a committed Christian who still struggles with how rampant sexual abuse is in our culture and in our churches, this book will stir you to prayer and to action without embittering you.
I 100% recommend it, and would even say that for any who may have potentially heard negative things about Rachael in other venues, that this book might really help you see her heart for justice but also her commitment to Christian principles in the process.
**Disclaimer** I received a free copy of this book in exchange for providing an honest review. My opinions and words are solely my own.**
Must-read. We need more people like Rachael Denhollander in our churches and communities today. While this book primarily focuses on her work in bringing down Larry Nassar, I've watched and admired the work that both her and her husband continue to do in helping to break the silence about what sexual harassment and abuses in churches and denominations as well. If you want to see what a portrait in courage looks like, this book is it.
This story is not for the faint of heart. The author is a strong, resilient and tenacious person who fights for girls (including herself) who have been sexually abused so that their voices are heard. The institutional coverups by Michigan State University, and US Olympic Committee and the US Gymnastics organization are appalling. This book is an eye-opener and is recommended for every parent and adult who desires to be an advocate for children.
What is a girl worth? More than just the title of the book, this is the theme and question that is woven into every fiber of the book. From the first page to the last, you are presented over and over again with the dichotomy of people and institutions who do things right against those who cannot seem to do anything but wrong. Or, in other words, those who recognize and extend value and those who don't.
Rachael's memoir is not for those who want to avoid the hard situations or who shy away from the dark side of the news. Though I suspect that most people who pick up this book will already be at least partially familiar with her and the other survivor's stories. In case you don't know, this book is talks about sexual abuse in detail including not just the immediate horrors, but its long-lasting effects on victims and their families. This book also spends the majority of it's time dealing with the arrest and ultimate conviction of Larry Nassar, one of the most prolific pedophiles and sexual abusers in US history. Along the way to that conviction this book does not shy away from the mistakes, lies, or failures of individuals, institutions, or the legal system that allowed this abuse to continue for decades
One of the things that Rachael has done so beautifully with this book is to explain not just by definition but also by example what she means by worth. Or, what it is to value something. She is consistently contrasting faithful, sacrificial love of her family, her husband, and the church against the selfish desires of her abuser, institutions, coaches, and, unfortunately, the church. To understand her definition of worth and how it is expressed, Rachael walks you through not just her abuse, but also through her journals, her thoughts, and scripture that helped her. She pulls everything back to this source and asks the question, "What is good and what is evil?" From that point she moves forward. What do we do with good? What do we do with evil? How is worth or value expressed? The reader soon finds out in her story that while love is the answer, it can often come with a price. That doing good with the right motives does not make you exempt from the loss of friends, family, and relationships. "Love is the motivation that will give joy and peace when doing the right thing is hard and hurts."
On a personal note, sexual abuse is a topic about which I wish I could say it has never impacted me personally. Unfortunately, I can't say that. The feelings of anger, shame, guilt, and loss are real and raw. Rachael wasn't afraid to confront those feelings head on. Also, while this memoir ends in partial resolution, it feels like nibbling on croutons while waiting for the gourmet dinner. But even here Rachael is helpful; God is good and he is just. His justice will be realized in time. We are simply called to love well and be faithful. "Success (isn't) defined by a result but by faithfulness." And what is success? "Always be motivated by love."
Full disclosure - I was given a copy of this book as a gift from the promotional team. That has not biased my decision in any way or impacted my review.
Unfortunately, as much as it pains me to say it...this wasn't all that well-written. There were so many moments, so many pieces of dialogue, that were just so incredibly cringe-worthy.
The worst part is, many of these instances came during an incredibly powerful and/or heartbreaking moment of the book. So I would be so incredibly invested, in tears or nearing there, and then there'd be a line of dialogue or a cliche-sounding sentence, and it would bring me right back out.
Despite all that, I'd still argue that this is an incredibly important book. And it's a powerful book--Rachael Denhollander has such amazing and admirable strength and courage and resilience, and all of that shown through here.
What she did cannot be quantified. The worth of what she did has the same answer as the title of her book--what is a girl worth? Everything. And what Denhollander accomplished and went through and survived? Also worth -everything-.
She helped change the world. A world that still needs so much more change, but is a little bit better because of what she did.
Incredibly well-written and compelling look at the story behind Rachael Denhollander's courageous battle to take down Larry Nassar. She gives you every detail on how she strategically planned to ensure the truth came out. Reading, however, you will learn that this was much more than just about Nassar. Rachael sends a powerful message about community protectionism, the power of Christ's love and JUSTICE. I couldn't put it down and was honored she would share her story in so much honest, beautiful detail.
I have the utmost respect for Rachael Denhollander as a woman and what she’s done as a leader in bringing down serial sex offender Larry Nassar. I’m much less of a fan of WHAT IS A GIRL WORTH? than I am Denhollander.
Rachael grew up isolated from those with different thoughts and beliefs in part due to being homeschooled and a member of a small church. She wasn’t exposed to much diversity, though her overprotective parents were more naïve than oblivious. The beginning of the book was slow, until she Rachael begins gymnastics and seeing Nassar. Once she realizes she’s been abused, the story veers off into religion her faith, which was of no interest to me. For law school, again Rachael chooses not to attend school in person, which would have given her some much needed exposure to a diversity of people with various experiences and ideas. When as an adult in her twenties, the guy she likes writes to her dad to ask if he could visit, it felt creepy and paternalistic for the twenty-first century. Rachael writes as if this is a great thing, which to me felt reinforcing how Nassar treated her like an object rather than a person with rights and opinions. The parts of the story that focused on Nassau’s reckoning got the story back on track.
WHAT IS A GIRL WORTH? is well written, but the least favorite of the books I’ve read on Nassar and gymnastics due to the religion overdose and Rachael’s narrow personal experiences, a loving family who always supported her, ideal coaches. I’m glad Rachael never experienced other atrocities and that she’s thriving.
Imagine this: you are a 30-something attorney. You're married to a PhD student. You have 3 kids under 5 and you're nursing one of them. You learn that you might have the chance to seek justice for a childhood trauma. You do what's right, relinquish your peace and privacy, and become a household name.
Justice is God's work, Rachael. (154)
Denhollander became the first woman to publicly accuse Larry Nassar of sexual assault, and fought a long, unbelievably hard fight for justice. Ida B. Wells-Barnett famously said, "The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them." The trouble is, when the matter concerns evil deeds done in darkness, light is blindingly painful.
I have put off reading What Is a Girl Worth? for a long time, because it is emotionally hard for anyone with a working heart to read. Yet, it is written with unparalleled excellence. Never was I lost in the sea of legal and medical terminology. Denhollander and her editing team make a formidable pairing. She is so articulate, I am in awe. I was not at all surprised to learn that she grew up home schooled and did much more debate than what my mom forced non-confrontational little me to do. In the words of one of my favorite professors, Denhollander is "a wonderful Christian" in her relentless pursuit of justice and her theology of love that fills her with compassion. She is now a go-to voice whenever an evangelical sex scandal breaks out, which is not a role she ever wanted. She fills it extremely well, but I sincerely hope she used the profits of this book to take a long, long vacation with her family far away from any sort of media attention.
The Psalms speak of justice as the foundation of God's throne (Ps 89:14). In many places, Scripture makes it clear that justice is more important to God than offerings and sacrifices, that he frowns upon such displays from unjust societies. As the church continues to face situations where we must choose between justice and complicity, may we choose to align ourselves with justice, the foundation of God's eternal throne, rather than glorifying lawlessness through loyalty to ephemeral institutions.
I highly recommend What Is a Girl Worth? to parents, those who oversee children in any capacity, ministry leaders, and anyone who wants to be an advocate for victims of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse.
Content warnings: matter-of-fact description of sexual assault. It's not limited to the earliest chapters when the abuse occurred, but comes up again during the court process. I would recommend that survivors who choose to read this book do so in community. Ultimately, Denhollander's bravery gave me hope, but that didn't lessen the heaviness of her story.
When I finished "What is a Girl Worth?" I immediately sent an email to our elders asking them to consider reading Rachael Denhollander's sobering account of abuse. I think it's that important for those tasked with the care and protection of others.
Rachael Denhollander grew up with two dreams: to be an attorney and to be a gymnast. As a young girl she visited a specialist at Michigan State University for an injury she sustained as a gymnast. Abusing his power, and leveraging her confusion, and her age, he sexually assaulted her. It turns out that this doctor, Larry Nassar, abused hundreds of young athletes.
Later in life, Denhollander heroically chose to come forward and press charges against Nassar. It turns out that the institutions that were supposed to protect the girls in their care instead chose to protect themselves and Nassar.
Denhollander's story reminds those of us in positions of authority that we must do everything in power to make sure that we are protecting children and the vulnerable in our care. "What is a Girl Worth" puts in front of us the sobering call to face tragic realities and take responsibility where necessary.
The title of the book comes from Denhollander's testimony at Nassar's sentencing where she says, "Who is going to tell these little girls that what was done to them matters? That they are seen and valued, that they are not alone and they are not unprotected?"
I pray that many victims read Denhollander's book and have the courage to come forward and that many leaders read "What is a Girl Worth?" and take seriously their call to protect the weak in their care.
This book was heavy, fascinating, hard to read, and hard to put down all at the same time. I feel like I understand so much more what goes through a person’s mind when they are abused and how they can feel powerless to speak up or think they are the problem. And some do speak up but they are silenced or not believed. I appreciated how Rachael gives the clear Gospel, yet shares her struggles and frustration with the justice of God and their church community. This scandal was so outrageous because of how long it went on and how many people it affected. Christians can shy away from scandal and confrontation, not wanting to “take sides.” Yet I believe it is our duty to stand up for what’s right and support those who have been hurt. I could identify with her feelings of living in fear and being unheard and misunderstood though not at this level. I was very moved by Rachael’s story and did more research on other victims and the trial. I will process this book for quite some time yet and I am determined to listen and do what I can to protect girls and women from this type of abuse and pain.
This is one of the hardest books I've read to date. Tragically necessary, impactful, and unforgettable. I had no idea Denhollander was a believer when I picked this book up, but it made all the difference. Her story not only raised significant concerns over exposing hidden abuse, she wrote it in such a way that had me looking inward, at my own choices and how they shape the person I become. It takes incredible communication skills, as well as wisdom and insight into human nature and the truth, to get to that level. I am deeply saddened by the fact that this book has to exist, and yet so grateful for the chance I had to read it.
This is a very eye opening and emotional book about one girls story of sexual abuse and the impact/effects it had on her. A very raw, real example of unfortunately so many girls stories. Definitely would recommend reading, especially if you want to have more understanding into the affects of sexual abuse and how to support a survivor. Warning: It could potentially be very triggering to someone that has experienced abuse.
I have to be honest – I am having a hard time formulating my thoughts on this book. It is, by far, the best I’ve read in 2021 (and I’ve surpassed 60 books already this year, so that’s saying something). What Is a Girl Worth? by former gymnast Rachael Denhollander tells her full story of speaking out and exposing the truth about former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar – one of the most prolific sexual offenders in recent history.
Denhollander, with painstaking detail and incredible courage, walks readers through every painful circumstance and the excruciating fallout and impact it had on her life. She is honest, raw, and direct, not shying away from the brutality of what happened, the awkward and tough questions, the misguided perspectives many hold regarding abuse, and the horribly inappropriate actions (read: cover up!) of some pretty big name institutions. She covers all of it.
She answers the abundance of questions survivors face, including “Why didn’t you come forward sooner?” or “Why didn’t you fight back?” She discusses the embarrassment, the shame, the often overlooked “freeze” response to fear (you know: flight, fight, freeze), and more. I cannot imagine a better account to read to better understand sexual abuse and the perspective of a survivor. While Denhollander’s focus is primarily Nassar and the trial, this is a complete account of her life living as a survivor, and she discusses how it permeates into every facet of daily life – her relationship with her parents, her education, her marriage, the birth and raising of her children, et cetera.
One of the most moving parts of the story is Denhollander’s commitment to her faith. She is very clear about how she wrestled with such evil in light of a good God. She is not afraid to share the truths of the gospel and how her wrestling brought her even nearer to Christ, as suffering so often does. Furthermore, she isn’t ashamed to unbiasedly point out weaknesses in the church, but she does so respectfully and tastefully, walking through why that is and how it has become that way. It was encouraging to read how she clung to her faith over the years, as she first processed the abuse and as she later came forward and dealt with a great deal of publicity, slander, and negativity. As a Christian, this was definitely one of the most impactful parts of the book to me.
I really have so much to say about this book, but the point of this is to be a brief review, not a multi-page essay, so I’ll try to wrap it up. This is one of the most well-written memoirs I have ever read. Denhollander is extremely articulate – a clear, efficient, and strong communicator and highly intelligent woman. Boy, does that come through in her writing (even more so considering the subject matter she navigates)! Her book is equal parts fascinating (on the legal and criminal side of things, which she covers in great detail), heartbreaking, sickening, encouraging (there is hope, friends!), and deeply inspiring. Rachael’s courage is astounding, as is the courage of every woman who came forward. She calls for change and action and asks the reader, just as she asked the courts as she fought to put Nassar behind bars, “What is a girl (or a child) worth?” The answer should be everything. Every effort, every safety, every precaution, every bit of manpower, every legislative protection.
My heart hurt for her and for all the survivors of not just Nassar’s abuse but anyone’s abuse. I hope that this book can be a part of much-needed change in the way we as a culture view and handle sexual abuse. I encourage everyone to read what Rachael Denhollander has to say. I would add only one caution: she is very specific and detailed about the sexual abuse, meaning she writes exactly what happened. There is no attempt to use gentle language. She is graphic because she needs to be. It’s important to know for yourself if you can handle that or not.
I stayed up later than I intended last night and finished "What is a Girl Worth?". I had followed the Nassar case after connecting with Jacob Denhollander on Twitter. He shared his wife’s story in the Indy Star article – a victim/survivor who had come forward to stop an evil man who had been abusing children for decades. As I read the articles and watched the news coverage, Rachael came across as so brave, strong, and capable. Her training as an attorney was evident in the clarity and power of her carefully chosen words. But her book reveals what was going on behind the scenes –
Would anyone believe her and take this seriously? Was it too late to report? The internal turmoil and re-traumatization of having to retell her abuse. Turning her private journals over to Nassar’s defense team knowing that her abuser would be reading them himself. Waiting to be attacked personally by attempts to rip her reputation to shreds by powerful people in powerful organizations. Wondering if the case would be dismissed and her abuser allowed to continue unchecked. Fearing that this sacrifice was all in vain.
This is what it costs a survivor to speak, and the cost is great. But it was counted and paid for the sake of justice and for the sake of all the little girls Larry Nassar abused.
"What is a Girl Worth?" was hard to put down. My heart ached for Rachael when she struggled to make sense of what happened to her, when she doubted herself, and wrestled with her faith. As I read, there was times when I asked myself, “Where on earth did she get the courage and stamina to do this?” But I think the answer is by the grace and power of God and the love and support of her family. But Rachael has also had more than her fair share of friendly fire. In fact, she and Jacob were pretty much told to stop speaking and posting publicly about child abuse and the SGM situation because if differed from the position their current church leaders were taking. I literally sat in silence for a few minutes digesting that paragraph because I was stunned. What are people really choosing to protect?
This is probably the most emotional book review I have ever written. But when it comes to child abuse, maybe we need a little more feeling because our hearts have grown calloused. There’s plenty of outrage for a host of things, but where is the righteous anger against this heinous sin? Perhaps it is because we don’t love the least of these as we should. Perhaps this reveals the state of our love for God. And I wonder what would happen in the church and beyond if we had a fraction of Rachael Denhollander's courage to count the cost and protect the vulnerable within our walls? I pray books like "What is a Girl Worth?" will educate but also challenge the complacency and coldness of our hearts. God have mercy on us.
"How Much is a Girl Worth?" is so much more than a memoir. It begins with a dedication "To every survivor.... it is not your fault. It is not Your shame. You are believed. May you know how much you are worth." It ends with, "So much work remains. So much evil to fight. So much healing to reach for. So many wounded to love. Consider this your invitation to join in that work. To do what is right, no matter the cost. To hold to the straight lines in the midst of the battle. To define your success by faithfulness in the choices you make. The darkness is there, and we cannot ignore it. But we can let it point us to the light." In between there is a beautifully written account or one survivors journey not just towards justice but towards acting faithfully, acting to protect, acting to love.
This is a book that will make you cry. You might throw the book across the room as you read of adults not caring, not responding, not protecting, not loving, little girls. We read the consequences of not valuing little girls. The mishandling of sexual abuse never occurs in a vacuum but it occurs within organizations that have determined something is more important than protecting the vulnerable. And while this is a story of one organization, of one survivor, what must be recognized is this is the story of sexual abuse survivors across the country. People ignoring, minimizing, and not caring about the story. People finding it more convenient to ignore reported abuse than to investigate. People who view their personal comfort as more valuable than little girls.
However, the gift most evident in this book is Rachael herself. She bares her soul in a way that is so personal. She shares pain common to all who have suffered sexual abuse. She gives a window into the soul of one who has been abused. If you know and love a survivor, this book will give you a window to struggles they may have.
Who should read this book? Anyone who loves any girl be it wife, daughter, niece, sister, grandma. IT's easy to think we would never allow a Nasser like abuser to be present in our space, but too many of us have stories with many similarities. May we learn from this story to act faithfully and to recognize that little girls are "Worth fighting for Justice, worth standing alone, worth whatever it takes for your worth to be shown" (taken from How Much is a Little Girl Worth by Rachael Denhollander). Rachael's life demonstrated that she believed that and sacrificed greatly with little hope of exposing evil. May each of us strive for similar faithfulness no matter what!
I cried at the end of this book. I was trying not to make audible sobs while listening to it on the bus ride home. Rachael is eloquent, sensitive, and wise. There are graphic details in here but not gratuitous. They are necessary and she explains the heart-wrenching struggle behind the decision to share them.
This book showcases the perversity of human nature and the damning silence of people who should have helped. It also tells a rare story of justice finally achieved, the incredible cost of obtaining that justice, and the strength of those who fought for it.
Every every every one needs to read this. We will all face situations like this to some degree in our lives, and Rachael’s story can help prepare us (as well as provide understanding and support for those who are survivors).
Rachael’s struggles with reconciling her faith with what happened to her is important—unflinching in its honesty and doubts as well as its confidence in the forgiveness and goodness of God and the belief that only Christianity offers a “straight line” by which we can judge the crooked. She is both intelligent and empathetic, and it’s a powerful and winsome combination I am so grateful for.
The second half of this memoir is a phenomenally detailed account of the Larry Nassar court case, and it was riveting. The first half was a very drawn out autobiographical account of a super churchy Michigan gymnast, growing up in the burbs, getting an education, and dealing with the aftermath of a sexual assault by a physician. While I find everything Denhollander did as a survivor, an advocate, and an attorney commendable, and respect her work, I didnt particularly care for the first half of the book. It took me longer than I thought it would to read because I was frequently bored and/or turned off by all of the talk of religion and how Rachael struggled with her faith, so I can only give 3 stars if I'm being honest about how much I actually liked the book. An important book, but not a great read.
Everyone should read this book, especially leaders within church, education, or similar institutions of power. If I were rating based upon Denhollander’s courage and story, I’d give it a 5. But the book, as others note, at times leaves a sense of confusion. I readily admit it is a lot to piece together court happenings and whatnot, but at times I reread paragraphs and still wasn’t sure what legal happenings impacted which event, and so on. I’m no legal expert (as 98% of readers, no doubt) but I was left scratching my head a few times.
Confusing paragraphs aside, this book is deeply needed and extremely important. It has given me a greater sense of compassion and a greater ability to care for the vulnerable. Please, everyone: listen.
4.5⭐ I had a hard time putting this one down. The struggles and heartache that Rachael and the other survivors went through was sobering and heartrending. More so because it could have been avoided to some extent of people would have listened and paid attention to the signs. Rachael was so brave and caring and put so much into helping the other survivors; her position as a lawyer helped her understand better what was happening and how to best answer questions and deal with the media. Reading this will definitely help me be more vigilant as a parent and church member; and to be more caring towards those who have suffered!
Wow. This book sucked me in. Into the story. Into the stellar writing.
The first thing that stunned me was how much Rachael and I have in common. Small town. Small church. Small home. Homeschooling family. A "late" start in gymnastics. A love for the coaching career that follows.
There the similarities end. Rachael outlines in painstaking, riveting detail her story of fighting to stop an abuser. I could not put down this autobiographical memoir written in such a compelling style and always with the depth of depravity she dealt with contrasted with the true hope and light of the gospel. Amazing, amazing book.
I couldn't put it down. Such a moving practical theology of justice, so needed in a world that denies the value of women as God's beloved daughters. I'll want my own daughters to read this ASAP. Thanks Rachael!
This was so hard to read, but I’m so glad I did. The evil one man can wield and the ignorance and turning of heads from large organizations that should be PROTECTING these victims was horrendous. But what a great God who exposes (through amazing truth and justice warriors like Rachael) evil and is always good. Come, Lord Jesus.