Rachael Denhollander was the first survivor to expose Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse and the last to give a victim impact statement regarding his serial molestation. Her What Is a Girl Worth? is a mature, resolute Christian memoir that lends vital perspective to abuse and institutional cover-ups.
Denhollander details her childhood and upbringing; her visits to a Michigan State University clinic as a teen; Nassar’s assaults at the clinic; and her road toward speaking out in 2016, months before the #MeToo movement gathered momentum.
The long term consequences of Nassar’s betrayal are drawn in a clear-eyed way. Denhollander’s pain balances with a tender portrait of her husband and family. Her intelligent reflections reveal a woman of faith who chose to sacrifice her privacy and to seek justice with love and determination that no child face the same pain. Separating her own future happiness and healing from the outcome of the trial, she presents peace as possible. Hers is a compelling viewpoint that isn’t imposed as a solution for all survivors.
Also an attorney, Denhollander elucidates the steps she took to bring her case to MSU police. From the first suspicion that Nassar’s treatments were anything but medical to his sentencing, the cruel realities of her survival thread with advocacy and everyday motherhood. Nassar is drawn as the thorough, renowned doctor, making his abuse even more chilling.
Treating a sensitive topic with unflinching truth, respect, and fair-mindedness, What Is a Girl Worth? fuses biblical notions with legal insights, personal journal entries, and heartbreaking data to make a lucid argument regarding the power of a single voice to inspire a chorus.
Starred review. In this powerful debut, attorney and former gymnast Denhollander tells of her life leading to the 2018 conviction of sexual predator Larry Nassar, a sports physician associated with Michigan State University and the USA Gymnastics team who molested the author and more than 200 other girls. Raised in Kalamazoo, Mich., Denhollander was homeschooled, deeply religious, and aspired to become a lawyer. “Gangly” and 5'6," she didn’t fit the profile of a gymnast but was placed on her gym’s competitive team; after sustaining a lower-back injury at age 15, she was sent to Nassar, who would—under the guise of treatment, without gloves, and without consent—vaginally penetrate her with his fingers. She reported the abuse to her coaches, but, she writes, they didn’t believe her; nearly 16 years later when another gymnast’s story of abuse by a coach broke, Denhollander decided to speak out again, eventually leading to Nassar’s indictment and conviction. Denhollander reveals her anguish and emotional pain, her feelings of helplessness (“How do I even try to heal from something, when I don’t even know what that ‘something’ is?”). Denhollander’s brave and detailed memoir serves as a clear-eyed look into a disturbing case of sexual abuse that gained national attention.
Starred Review. Denhollander, now an attorney and activist, was the first to share her story publicly when the 2016 USA gymnastics sexual abuse scandal broke. Her authorial debut reveals how she was groomed and abused as a young gymnast, in plain view of an unsuspecting parent, and how she and other survivors brought serial molester Larry Nassar to justice. Reaching beyond her own narrative, Denhollander explores why victims of sexual assault often stay silent; she also describes Nassar’s trial in detail and examines the safety nets that failed to protect her and hundreds of his other victims. Her memoir is straightforward and deeply honest about the betrayal she endured yet hopeful for growing awareness and healing. Drawing on her law background and faith-based strength, the former gymnast advocates for positive action against abuse, with her own experiences as the inspirational framework. VERDICT: Essential for sports fans and all readers concerned with the ongoing, widespread challenges of abuse and accountability. Denhollander’s story of empowerment deserves wide readership.
This is one of the most important books you’ll ever read.
Rachael Denhollander stared down evil and changed the world. Parts of her memoir are heartbreaking, but it is ultimately uplifting, a story of faith, courage, and love. Rachael has become known internationally, but this book goes so much deeper than anything that has been said about her. It is a riveting memoir.
I was utterly inspired by Rachael even before reading her memoir. But reading the story behind the story further cements my belief that this woman is a hero in every sense of the word. The courage it took to come forward and bring Larry Nassar to justice is amplified by the struggle it took to get to that point. Her willingness to put herself in harm’s way to protect future generations drove her to speak out even when she thought the world might not hear her. This unflinching narrative, replete with the harrowing details of the impact of abuse and the traumatic emotional aftermath, is an act of bravery in and of itself.
Rachael’s account of her abuse shatters our certainties. A well-loved and protected child is abused by those assumed to be good. Hearing such stories makes us want to deceive ourselves. We want to look away and deny. Rachael teaches us clearly that deceit—not truth—is our enemy. The hard truth of her story brings light and hope. May we, like Rachael, have the courage to listen to the God of all truth as He teaches us through her words and her life.
No two sexual abuse cases are exactly alike, yet Rachael Denhollander’s story reveals what they all have in common and the part we all can play in preventing abuse, defending the vulnerable, and pursuing justice. Sexual abuse does not take place only in dark alleys late at night. It occurs in brightly lit offices and in quiet church sanctuaries, in public spaces and in the privacy of homes. If you don’t understand how this can be, please read this book. If you know too well why this is, you have even more reason to read this book. Rachael writes with moral clarity grounded in biblical truth and love. What Is a Girl Worth? is a must-read for anyone who cares about protecting precious lives from predators and pursuing justice for those for whom we were too late.
Rachael Denhollander is a hero. She chose to speak her truth when it was painful, difficult, and certainly not the “comfortable” route to take. By doing so, she has played a significant role in making our beautiful sport safer and in protecting the livelihoods of countless child athletes. I will always stand beside her in solidarity and admiration, and I applaud her for taking the additional step of telling more of her story with this book. I know firsthand how challenging that can be, and I thank her for her courage.
As men, we’re taught not to be afraid, not to ask for help, not to be victims. And so when abuse happens to us, we feel powerless to fight it. That’s my own story, but with God’s help, I've learned a better way. And through What Is a Girl Worth?, we can all learn how to walk together toward a safer, brighter future. Do not miss this incredible true story of Rachael Denhollander, the woman who stopped an abuser. She is a living example of grace and strength in the fight against evil, and I’m standing by her side.