FROM Good News UK

Gymnast forgives her abuser

Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander was the first woman to publicly accuse former USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of abusing the girls in his care. She also publicly confronted the paedophile in court during Nassar's sentencing last year.

It was Rachael's report about him abusing her when she was 15 that sparked the case against Nassar, and led to over 200 other victims coming forward. Her 36-minute statement in court earned an ovation from the gallery and became a key episode in the #MeToo movement, particularly in sport.

Rachael Denhollander
Rachael Denhollander gives her victim impact statement in court, describing her pain but also her forgiveness.

Yet when she was face to face with Nassar, Rachael's statement also offered forgiveness. She didn't shirk from calling for the maximum sentence for him, but as justice, not retribution.

Nassar was eventually sentenced to between 40 and 175 years, but not before Judge Aquilina opened the courtroom to any of Nassar's victims who wanted to address him. Over 150 victims took the opportunity, during the almost week-long hearing.

Nassar objected and accused Judge Aquilina of overseeing a "media circus", but the judge replied: "Spending four or five days listening to them is significantly minor, considering the hours of pleasure you had at their expense and ruining their lives."

Rachael, now an attorney and mother of three, told the court of the delight Nassar took in grooming his victims and how he showed no remorse.

But addressing Nassar, she said: "Larry, if you have read the Bible, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance, which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse."

She encouraged him to understand the seriousness of his crimes, but also to find forgiveness from God: "Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

"I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience a true turning away from sin and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me -- though I extend that to you as well."

She explained that knowing that she has been forgiven for her own wrongdoing means "I can be forgiving, move forward and begin to heal."

Rachael also found solace in reading the Bible, particularly the parts that describe Jesus returning as a judge against evil.

"We have a God who says, 'This is evil, and it matters, and I will come back and deal with it,'" she said. "That was the greatest comfort to me as an abuse victim."

Forgiveness and justice are not mutually exclusive with God. He holds the threat of punishment but also the way to escape that – if we are willing to admit our own wrongs, as Rachael explained, and ask his forgiveness.

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