Do You Judge the Victim? How Much Is She Worth?

What is a girl worth_pin

We hear the story. And we start wondering:

  • Was she wearing provocative clothes?
  • Was it after midnight?
  • Had she been drinking alcohol?
  • How hard did she fight back?

Maybe it’s because we think: If I avoid those things, I’ll avoid sexual assault, too.

But Rachael Denhollander was just a kid going to a doctor for a gymnastics injury.

And on her first visit, in street clothes in the middle of the day, sober, she was assaulted by Dr. Larry Nasser, a renowned doctor for the USA Gymnastics national team and a physician at Michigan State University.

Don’t blame the survivor for not fighting back. They wish so much more than you that they could have.”

So next we ask ourselves:

  • Why didn’t she say something right then?
  • Why did she go back to him?
  • Why didn’t she immediately press charges?
  • Why did she wait so longer before she told anybody?

Because, again, we think WE would do differently.

“And why did I not tell my mom? I didn’t know how to reconcile who he was supposed to be with what he had done. And I didn’t want to give it words. Words make it real.”

But in reality, we don’t know what we would do unless we are there ourselves. And Rachael explains what happened to her without us having to go there ourselves, fortunately for many of us.

“How do you explain to someone who has never been that vulnerable that even though I wasn’t ‘held down,’ I was still trapped? Even though I wasn’t ‘physically overpowered,’ I was completely powerless?

“There weren’t just two responses to danger —fight or flight —as everyone casually said. There were three. Fight, flight, or freeze. I know what freezing in fear is now. It’s when you’re so confused and ashamed and horrified and scared that you just . . . shut down, because reality is incomprehensible.

“Why didn’t you cry out? Why? Because I trusted. I was a child. He was a doctor. He knows best. He had cared for me. He knew me. There had to be a reason. I must be reading too much into it.”

Rachael also reminds us that we need to drop the narrative that if you’re abused, you did something to deserve it. No. If you’re abused, the blame falls on the abuser, not the abused.

“You are not crazy. I wanted the survivors to know. This. Is. Not. Your. Fault.

Rachael was among the first women to come forward about being sexually abused by Larry Nassar. She recounts her story and her journey to trial in her gripping book, What Is a Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics. If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to. It’s a difficult book to read, but it’s an important one.

Rachael is wise, articulate, and authentic. She is an attorney, advocate, educator, wife, and mom. She stays on track with the storyline and she shares her strong Christian faith along the way.

“I want you to understand why I made this choice, knowing full well what it was going to cost to get here and with very little hope of ever succeeding. I did it because it —was —right. No matter the cost, it was right. “

She moves us to think. To feel. To act.

And to stop blaming the victim.

Because, as she asks the judge at Nassar’s trial before his sentence is determined, how much is a little girl worth? Everything.

“Good and right do exist. Truth does exist.”

* * *

Thanks to those who recommended this book to me. You were right about it.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers
and Net Galley for the review copy of this book

13 thoughts on “Do You Judge the Victim? How Much Is She Worth?

  1. bill (cycleguy)

    This was without a doubt one of the most sobering books I read in 2019. If it hadn’t been for Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin this book by Rachel may well have been my choice for Book of the Year. I cried. I got angry. I was frustrated. I was sobered. In the end I was grateful for Rachel’s (and because of her the hundreds of other girls) who stepped forward against Nasser. I think everyone ought to read this book, however, I know of some whom this would strike too close to home to and should avoid it because of the ugly memories it will drudge up. Good choice Lisa. And good review.

  2. blankBarbara Harper

    I’ve been considering this one. I know it would be hard to read, but I have heard good things about it. I was so impressed with what I saw of her testimony. We need to understand the perspective she brings so we can better empathize with those who have been abused and hopefully be more watchful for abuse of power and influence and prevent these kinds of things from happening.

  3. blankLaurie

    This book is already on my TBR list. Thank you for your insightful review. You said some words that need to be said, as did the author of this book. “If you’re abused, the blame falls on the abuser, not the abused.”

  4. blankTrudy

    This brings tears to my eyes, Lisa. I so identify with these quotes. Rachael is so brave and has helped victims to gain more courage to come forward. Thank you for being such a compassionate advocate for the victims! Love and blessings to you!

  5. blankSusan Shipe

    Lisa, whew. I sat guilty the first few lines. Do we judge the victim? I definitely have done that – and hate that I have. Your review does exactly what it was intended to do…cause one to pick up the book. xo

  6. blankJean Wise

    Blame and judgment never amount to anything from the human point of view. Compassion and support are most needed. Thanks for an insightful read.

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