I can think of two reasons you should read Rachael Denhollander’s book What Is a Girl Worth?
Denhollander is an attorney, advocate, and educator. She became known as the first woman to ﬁle a police report and speak publicly against USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, one of the most prolific sexual abusers in recorded history. She was named as one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Inﬂuential People in the World”. Her story has appeared in Christianity Today.
Her book details her story and her quest to bring Nassar to justice. It’s an important book to read for a couple of reasons.
The first reason you should read this book is to understand sexual abuse.
If statistics are right, you are surrounded by people who’ve experienced sexual abuse. It’s difficult to determine rates of sexual abuse because so many incidents go unreported, but it’s estimated that at least 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual abuse in their lifetime.
Those numbers are incomprehensible to me.
The effects of sexual abuse are devastating. One book says:
Sexual assault is not simply an event that happened to you, ended, and now is over. It can have an impact on every aspect of your life—your faith, your daily attitudes and emotions, your self-image, your relationships, and your sexuality. These are not just past issues but remain very real and current …
Given the number of those who’ve experienced sexual abuse, and the effects, all of us would do well to learn about sexual abuse. One of the best ways to do this is to listen to the stories of those who’ve experienced it.
Denhollander helps us here. She helps us understand how it can happen, why many freeze rather than fight or flee, how it can continue for so long before being reported, how it affects the person and those around them, and how victims feel silenced.
It took guts for Denhollander to tell her story. She’s shared some of the most intimate and horrifying experiences of her life, and entrusted them to us. She’s given us a gift, and it’s important we learn from her story and the stories of others.
To Serve the Church
It’s also important to read her book to understand how to care for others within the church.
Denhollander’s story is heartbreaking, doubly so because the church failed her. Her words are haunting:
Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse because the way it is counseled is, more often than not, damaging to the victim. There is an abhorrent lack of knowledge for the damage and devastation that sexual assault brings. It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help. That’s a hard thing to say, because I am a very conservative evangelical, but that is the truth. There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the church.
Denhollander lost her own church in the process of responding to allegations of abuse. The church has since apologized, and Denhollander is honest and yet gracious in describing what happened. Still, it’s heartbreaking.
As a pastor, I want to do better. I believe the church can do better. This book can help.
It’s because of Denhollander that I recently preached a sermon on sexual abuse. “I would like to see pastors preach sermons on sex abuse as frequently as I see them preach on how women should be quiet and submissive,” she said.
She’s right. We can’t afford to neglect this issue. Denhollander has done us a favor in writing this book. It’s a gift to the church.