Rachael Denhollander was the first public accuser of Larry Nassar, a Michigan State University sports medicine doctor, who was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges.
Allegedly, Denhollander had been molested by Nassar when she was 15 years of age in 2000. In 2016, she came forward with her story, becoming the first person to publicly accuse Nassar of sexually abusing his patients while painting his actions as medical treatment. By the time Nassar’s case went to trial, 156 women gave victim impact statements against him in a seven-day sentencing hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court.
According to MLive, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina gave Denhollander the following words of support for bringing Nassar to justice:
“You made this happen. You are the bravest person I’ve ever had in my courtroom.”
Denhollander said the following in a court statement:
“How much is a little girl worth?”
“I submit to you, these children are worth everything the court has to offer.
“The sentence today will send a message across the country, to every victim and every perpetrator.”
She added that Nassar “chose to pursue wickedness, no matter what it cost others.”
During her court appearance, she called out the MSU administration for ignoring complaints made by other women over Nassar’s treatments before Denhollander was abused. As she added, “You have refused to answer a single question,” and accused them of playing “word games.” She explained in the following statement:
“Nobody ‘knew’ because nobody handled the reports properly. The victims were silenced.”
“The actions of adults in authority have greatly compounded the suffering of the victims.”
Ultimately, Nassar pled guilty in November to first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges involving seven women, which includes Denhollander herself. He faces up to a maximum of up to life in prison. Under the plea agreement, the women who made accusations against Nassar of sexual abuse were allowed to give victim impact statements; the number of women extended the original four-day schedule for the hearing to seven days.
Who is Rachael Denhollander?
A Kalamazoo homeschooler, Denhollander’s injuries kept her out of joining a gymnastics club and local doctors had problems giving her a proper diagnosis. When she was 15, she first encountered Nassar while seeking treatment at MSU’s sports-medicine clinic. At the time, she and her mother, Camille Moxon, were excited to receive treatment from Nassar, due to his longtime association with USA Gymnastics, having worked as a team doctor for four games.
During her first appointment, Nassar initially performed a routine exam but then asked Denhollander to stand next to the exam table with her legs apart. While massaging her hip area, he slipped his hand up her shorts and used two fingers to penetrate her vagina.
Her mother had been in the exam room, although the incident was not visible to her. “I can’t be the only one,” Denhollander said she told herself at the time:
“This was clearly something he does regularly. He was very sure, very practiced; it was very clearly standard procedure. It’s not possible for him to be doing this regularly, and for MSU and (USA Gymnastics) to be unaware of it.”
Reportedly, the sexual abuse continued over several appointments, with Nassar penetrating her each time. When she came forward with what had happened to her mother, they hesitated to contact the police since it was their word against a prominent doctor:
“He was so loved in the community that I was very sure…I would be crucified and he would end up empowered to know he couldn’t get caught.
Denhollander eventually came forward in August 2016 after reading an Indianapolis Star expose on USA Gymnastics’ alleged mishandling of sexual-abuse allegations, although Nassar was not featured in the expose. After contacting the publication, it ran a follow-up expose concerning her testimony; the follow-up also included testimony from another woman, Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympic bronze medalist, although, unlike Denhollander, she was originally anonymous in the publication.
The story eventually sparked other complaints from patients of Nassar.