Nassar survivor's new book dedicated to girls everywhere


By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

When one of her three young daughters asked Rachael Denhollander questions that people should’ve asked all along regarding the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, she was inspired to write her children’s book.

This was at the photo-shoot in 2018 where Denhollander – the woman who spoke out publicly about sports medicine physician Nassar’s sexually deviant behavior that motivated so many other women to come forward in a story that became international news – was given the Glamour Woman of the Year Award. Denhollander took her two of three daughters – Ellianna, who was 3 at the time, and Elora, who was a baby at the time (she and her husband, who live in Louisville, also have two older children: son Jonathan and eldest daughter Annaliese) – to the photo-shoot.

“(Ellie) was having a hard time with how much I had to travel, so I brought her with me, and she just hung out with me during the photo-shoot,” said Denhollander.

A Kalamazoo native and former gymnast, Denhollander is an alumna of Oak Park College of Law and Government Policy in Fresno, Calif. and the author of the children’s book “How Much is a Little Girl Worth?” (Tyndale Momentum $14.99), illustrated by Morgan Huff.

“In between takes when I was holding her, Ellie pointed to 120 other Nassar survivors also present at this photo-shoot and asked who they were. I said, ‘They’re Mommy’s friends, honey. They helped put the bad man in jail,’” recalled Denhollander. “She put her head down again and then looked up. ‘Why is that lady holding a picture of a little girl? Where’s the little girl?’ She pointed to Donna Markhum, Chelsea Markhum’s mom.”

Chelsea Markham was abused by Nassar between the ages of 10 and 12. She struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts afterwards. In 2009, she committed suicide at 23.

“How do you explain that to a 3-year-old? (I told her) ‘Chelsea’s not able to be here today, but she and her mommy helped put the bad man in jail. She’s here because Chelsea can’t be here today,’” said Denhollander.

At that point, Ellie put her head down yet again. After a minute or so, she looked up and pointed to a girl who was around 11 and asked who she was.

According to Denhollander, this was one of Nassar’s last-known victims. She was being treated by Nassar – who practiced medicine for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics – after the 2014 investigation into his conduct resulted in Nassar avoiding any criminal charges.

“My daughter asked, ‘Mommy, why are there kids here?’ ‘There’s a child in there because nobody did the right thing,’” Denhollander told Ellie. “‘But there are also kids in there because even kids can choose to do what’s right and choose to tell the truth. She chose to do what’s right and tell the truth and that’s why she’s here with us today.’ She put her head down one more time and looked up and had this tone of absolute confusion and shock. ‘Why are there so many?’”

At that point, Denhollander stopped answering her daughter’s questions.

“What she saw with her little baby eyes, she was asking all the questions that all these adults should’ve been asking all along. ‘Why isn’t Chelsea here with us? Why are there kids here? Why are there so many? Why are there survivors here who were born after the first report of abuse in 1997?’ They weren’t even alive when young women described what Larry was doing! I could be their mom! Yet these were the questions all the adults in authority should’ve been asking but they didn’t care enough to ask,” explained Denhollander.

When writing this book, Denhollander [who also published her first-hand account of the Nassar scandal in her memoir “What is a Girl Worth? My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics” (Tyndale Press $26.99)] saw the faces of so many: her three daughters, the gymnasts she once coached, the numerous girls Nassar molested. She asked herself: “How much is a little girl worth?” – which became the title of the children’s book.

“There are many voices competing to tell our daughters what they are worth, and most of them would teach our girls to define their value by something outside of themselves,” said Denhollander. “Our daughters need to know that their worth is not derived from or dependent on external sources. It comes from how they were made. Our daughters need to know that their value is intrinsic to who they are, not based on what they can do or what others have done to them. Our daughters need to know whose voice to listen to and how to measure their value. This frees them from the social pressures that can threaten every facet of who they are; it frees them to heal when they have suffered; and it frees them to stand for what is right, no matter what another says ... That’s the message all of our daughters need to hear – and our sons, too.”


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