Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander used her statement Wednesday against sex abuser Larry Nassar as a testimony and message of grace and forgiveness.
She was the final victim to make a statement in the sentencing hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court in Michigan. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor, to up to 175 years in a Michigan prison for his abuse of young female gymnasts.
Denhollander used part of her 36-minute statement to refer to the Bible and a quote from renowned Christian author C.S. Lewis.
“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 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,” Denhollander said, according to a full transcript of her statement.
Denhollander prayed and sang verses of “Amazing Grace” with her family before her court appearance, the Indianapolis Star reported. She is married and has three young children, Jonathan, Annaliese and Ellianna, People magazine reported in 2017.
She was the first, in 2016, to accuse Nassar of sexual abuse, back in 2000 when she was 15 and he was the sports physician at Michigan State University. On the stand, she spoke to Nassar of the biblical description of the final judgment “where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you.”
She continued: “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 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.”
After quoting C.S. Lewis during her statement, she said: “Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was. … And I can call it evil because I know what goodness is. And this is why I pity you.”
Her husband, Jacob Denhollander, tweeted Wednesday, “The press coverage is amazing, and the praise heaped on Rachael is gratifying and humbling. But it’s the private messages from the parents and abuse survivors talking about the courage they have received from her testimony that means the most.”