I have just finished two books which belong in everyone’s personal libraries. The author of these books is Rachael Denhollander, a significant survivor voice in the midst of the Larry Nassar predatory abuse scandal in USAG (United States of America Gymnastics) and MSU (Michican State University). In the book What is a Girl Worth?, Rachael chronicles her life, courageously sharing her experiences regarding predatory sexual abuse and her journey as a survivor. In her other book, How Much is a Little Girl Worth?, Rachael shares a poem she has written focused on this important question, especially as a mom with three little daughters.
Let me begin my review with Rachael’s children’s book, How Much is a Little Girl Worth?. This book is a wonderfully illustrated and poignantly stated affirmation of worth for the young ladies in our families. The illustrations, by Morgan Huff, help to carry the important message of a little girl’s value to everyone. The very intentional depiction of girls of varied ethnic backgrounds is a testament to the author’s grasp of the universal impact of the challenges little girls face in our world today. I also appreciate the clear statements of a parent’s, in this case a mom’s, commitment to protect and defend her daughter from anyone seeking to diminish, demean, or destroy her. This commitment is spoken so carefully and clearly that a child will appreciate the care of her mom or dad, while the parents reading this book will be reminded of and encouraged in continued resolve to thwart any ill will of any predators. I pray that this brief, powerful book will be an encouragement to families with little girls as well as to our churches as we recognize our privilege, and responsibility, to walk alongside these little ones and their families as we help protect, value, and empower them for the future our Lord has prepared for them.
In What is a Girl Worth?, Rachael’s memoir, she candidly shares with her reader her story. In a thoroughly engaging conversational manner, Rachael communicates significant components of her early years, prior to the abuse by Mr. Nassar. As I read this opening section of her book, I came to see a more complete picture regarding who Rachael Denhollander is. For me, this aspect of her book, which carries throughout every page, helped to humanize the lady I had only seen speak in very challenging, crucial circumstances, namely on panels such as the one at the SBC annual meeting this year in Birmingham. Hearing from her on that panel–and in the various video sections of the curriculum, Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused–I saw Rachael as a tenacious and forthright advocate for abuse survivors…and a challenger to us, individually and corporately, as believers to step up and do what is just and right regarding the issue of predatory abuse. I am forever grateful for this aspect of her book beautifully juxtaposing her “pit bull like” tenacity and her vulnerability as she struggled through the challenges as a survivor.
As I continued reading What is a Girl Worth?, I encountered moments of anger, shock, mourning, tears, encouragement, laughter, and celebration. Reading about her prior experience of sexual abuse, years before the encounter with Mr. Nassar, within the context of a local church was a serious shock. I had not heard of that aspect of her story before reading this book. Hearing that part of her story increases my resolve to lead my church and encourage other churches to be those which care well for abuse survivors…right now! In addition to those kinds of shocking moments are the heart-touching moments like the wonderful story of God bringing her husband, Jacob, into her life. I’ve read the humor from his Twitter account. Seeing, through Rachael’s eyes, his God-honoring compassion and care for her as friend and husband is a point in her book which brought me both to tears and cheers. Simply awesome! As I read the last word of Rachael’s book and closed the cover, having read all that was involved in bringing justice to Mr. Nassar and for all the survivors who regained their voice and have been clearly heard, I am challenged in my resolve to live my life honoring and caring for the women and girls God has brought into my life–from my wife, to my Mom and extended family, to my church family, and to all others.
I encourage, even implore, everyone to pick up a copy of Rachael Denhollander’s books. They are available now for pre-order on sites like Amazon (children’s), Barnes & Noble (children’s) and ChristianBook.com (children’s) and will be shipped and available in bookstores like Mardel’s on September 10.