Listening In preview: Rachael Denhollander

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: an excerpt from Listening In. This week, a conversation with author, lawyer, and activist Rachael Denhollander.She was once a competitive gymnast and coach. Denhollander became a powerful advocate for women and girls abused by Larry Nassar—giving many the courage to come forward with their stories.

NICK EICHER, HOST: At Nassar’s sentencing hearing, Denhollander gave a riveting speech—asking the judge to impose the maximum sentence permissible under law. She did so by asking the question, “What is a girl worth?” Here’s an excerpt from her conversation with Warren Smith.

RACHAEL DENHOLLANDER, GUEST: Someone asked: “What was left to tell after the sentencing hearing?” And the answer is: “Almost everything.” Because most people tuned in during the sentencing hearing and they saw a gaunt man in an orange jumpsuit and 156 women standing up to confront him. 

Most people have no idea what it took to get to that point. And one of the things I really wanted to do in the memoir is lay out exactly what had to be in place, because we had to wrest control from two major organizations: a Big-Ten university and the Olympic governing body and the U-S-O-C. We had four law inforcement agencies that were involved with helping to cover this up, or botching investigations. 

We had people in places of power and who had money, actively keeping people silent. It had to be just the right circumstances, in just the right order. And I want people to look at that and I want them to think: “If it cost her this much, and it was this difficult, after 16 years of healing, with a legal education, coming from a white, middle class background of privilege, how much does it cost survivors who don’t have those things in place?” Because they need us to stand with them. They need us to be their voice, and I want people to read my book and I want them to hear everybody else who doesn’t have what I had. 

WARREN SMITH, HOST: How are you doing? Do you feel healed? Do you feel like the healing process is continuing? Do you still feel the consequence of it?

DENHOLLANDER: Yeah, I think you always do. And that again something we really need to grapple with. Because everybody wants healing to be a neat little package that you tie up with a pretty bow and then you get to move on. 

And that’s not what happens. I think a better definition of healing is that you know what to do with the grief and difficulty when it comes. And so I’m grateful to have reached a significant place of healing, but it’s always going to be a continuous journey. And we need to wrestle with that because survivors need us to walk alongside them. And they also need us to do everything in our power to give them a voice and give them support so they can progress on that healing journey. And that also means that it’s absolutely imperative that we do what we can to prevent abuse in the first place, because you don’t get a neat little bow on the top.

Rachael Denhollendar (David Harrison/Genesis)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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