When we ask the question, who is courageous, it’s reasonable that our first responses would include such people as those in the military, first responders, humanitarians in dangerous places, etc. But I learned today that the face of courage includes some very remarkable young women, the first among them being Rachael denHollander, the catalyst for finally bringing Larry Nassar to justice. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and humiliation Rachael has suffered at the hands of those who knew better and chose not to listen – just as they chose not to listen or even follow the law required under Title IX. But thankfully, she found the strength and the courage to continue her pursuit of justice. As a result of her perseverance, Rachael made it possible for more than 100 young girls and ladies to begin the healing process, herself included.
Rachael’s victim impact statement was moving, not because of the words necessarily, but because of her grace under fire as she delivered a stinging indictment of individuals and institutions who failed to protect the most innocent within our society – our children. Rachael’s questions remain unanswered by those individuals who failed to comply with the law as mandated reporters, and institutions that continued to willingly turn a blind eye to the travesty that was happening right in front of them. “How much is a little girl worth?”
Rachael – if I may respond. Our children, our young people are worth the very best that our communities can give them. We owe each and every one of you a chance to retain your innocence throughout your childhood years, teenage years, and perhaps even young adult years; an opportunity to seek out whatever life has to offer you in a way that contributes to your growth, positive experiences, and learning, all while being protected from the harms that can befall you. That’s simply what responsible and caring adults do. What has happened to you and all your sister survivors is an epic failure – not because your parents and other adults failed to protect you but because there were some adults who made it impossible for us to fulfill our responsibility of protecting you. Those adults and those institutions which facilitated the criminal acts of Nassar must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, both at the federal and state levels. As Judge Aquilina said numerous times during the victim impact statement portion of the sentencing hearing – we have heard your voices and they are strong.
There is nothing that can be done or said that will erase or undo the harm that has been caused you. What we as leaders within our communities and organizations and all adults can do is stand up and tell the predators and the facilitators that such behavior is no longer tolerated in our society and it will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Our children need to know with confidence that they are treasured members of our community and we will do our utmost to protect them from harm until that point in time when they can protect themselves. Rachael, you and your sister survivors have done a good thing. Each of you has started the healing or continued on that healing journey. You have also made a significant impact in that we adults now know that we, like you, cannot fully trust those in positions of authority to make the right, ethical decision. We need to remain vigilant. Thanks to each of you for your statements because we know how to improve our vigilant posture.