Never in my life have I read a more impactful book.
After many of my fellow plaintiffs had read and recommended this book to me after its release in September, I finally downloaded the audio version this week and began to listen. I was not prepared for how it would affect me.
The first day after listening to the first couple of hours, I became very ill and eventually vomited from the overwhelming triggers and grief. Each day after that, as I continued to listen, I had to take multiple breaks to cry and release more grief. I called a few of my fellow plaintiffs in the middle of my sobs just needing someone who understands to grieve with.
Reading this book was like reading my own story.
From being a victim of two abusers, to feeling like I couldn’t report because I believed one of my abusers was untouchable, to watching authority figures cover up the abuse, to burying my own pain, to journaling and praying my way through the pain and into healing, to having to tell the man I love that I was a survivor, to fighting PTSD and nightmares and flashbacks, to reading a whistle-blowing news article containing the first accusation and then becoming the second woman to publicly come forward, to joining a lawsuit with 18 fellow victims, to giving media interviews and building relationships with journalists, to giving up every shred of privacy and dignity in the midst of a national news story, to witnessing one heck of a judge validate my story….Rachael’s story is so, so much like my own.
Just as Rachael explained toward the end of her book, I, too, never wanted this life. I never wanted something as incredibly private and personal as my sexual assault to become part of a national news story. I never wanted my entire community to know. The darkest part of my life should NEVER have become so public.
I didn’t choose this. I never wanted this. None of this should have ever been.
And for this reason, I grieve.
Rachael also wrote,
“I was also learning the very painful lesson that full healing never really comes. I wanted healing to mean that I would go back to being who I was before I was abused, like it hadn’t happened. But the scars of Larry’s abuse were visible to the whole world. They would never NOT be my public identity now. I had to let myself grieve again because grief was the outlet that allowed unhealthy anger to be washed away. And I had to remind myself that longing for what is straight is good. The straight line is there, I told myself. And you can see the evil, because you know the good. Let the grief at what is so crooked, turn you to what is straight.”
I didn’t choose this life, but I am willing to rise to it.
I am so thankful that the God I serve can take even the darkest evil and use it for something good. I’m so thankful that I know the acts of abuse committed against me were evil because I have personally experienced what is pure and good. I am so thankful that even though I must daily face the scars and grief of a childhood that never should have been, I am also able to daily watch redemption unfold each day as I step forward in what I now know is truth.
If I could choose one hero in the world it would be Rachael Denhollander. She embodies the courage and strength I’m still trying to muster. She tells her story with the grace and power I yearn for. She is indomitable and fierce and unashamedly takes a stand for what is right, no matter the cost, no matter the backlash. She speaks the truth because it is right.
Rachael sacrificially laid down the peaceful, private life she knew and in its place took on lifelong scars, all in the hopes of saving even just one little girl. If that isn’t a picture of the Gospel, I don’t know what is.
How much is a little girl worth?