How much is a little girl worth?
“How much is a little girl worth?” is the question that Rachael Denhollander asks.
Denhollander is one of well over 250 victims of decades of repeated sexual abuse at the hands of Dr. Larry Nassar, the former national team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. The case against Dr. Nassar has been brought to international headlines over the past couple of weeks, as the judge in the case allowed over 150 victims to confront Nassar in court. You can watch her whole testimony here. It’s well worth the time.
During her statement in court, Denhollander, a devout Christian, mentions that advocating for sexual abuse victims “cost me my church.” At the time, her church was working to help sexual assault victims from one specific church scandal. As an advocate for the sexually abused, she wanted to help her church, but according to her interview with Christianity Today, her own church’s leaders discredited her voice on the topic of sexual assault because she herself was a victim of sexual assault. Does that make any sense? I was shocked. You can read the whole interview here.
Then I thought about it. What this church did to Denhollander was not unusual for Christians. In our quest to apply God’s word, we often minimize the testimony of the victim. We will hear his/her story and almost immediately jump to the fact that he/she needs to forgive the abuser, or read Romans 8:28. This is to our shame. Yes God is sovereign, and forgiveness is absolutely necessary (Matt. 6:14-15) even if the abuser never asks for it, but first acknowledging the victim’s trauma is crucial.
We as Christians must be known as advocates for the oppressed. During the Prophet Isaiah’s life, the nation was all about following the religious feasts and festivals, but they were neglecting justice. Here’s what God said to them:
Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[a] Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.(Isa. 1:14,17 NIV)
Christian, do you want God to see your worship as detestable? Do you want your your tithes, offerings, ushering, singing, coffee serving, sunday school teaching, to be a stench in his nostrils?
Yes standing up for the oppressed and abused will take time, and energy, and potentially even cost some relationships. But ask yourself Denhollander’s question, “How much is a little girl worth?”
Let me make this as clear as I can. Sexual assault and abuse is real, horrific, and life-altering to the abused and their loved ones. Rachael Denhollander has shown incredible perseverance and trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as she has pursued justice at great cost to her and her family. If you have been abused, or know of someone who has been or is being abused, report it. Isaiah 1:17a: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.” – Pastor Paul