Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse, will speak at Harvard University this week about justice and forgiveness.
The event, called “Can we reconcile justice and forgiveness?” is scheduled for Thursday, April 5 at the Sanders Theatre in Harvard’s Memorial Hall.
Denhollander will talk about how her religion has influenced her thoughts on justice as well as her ability to forgive those who “do not seem to deserve it,” the event posting notes.
Denhollander was 15 years old when she was molested by Nassar, who in January was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse (on top of a 60-year sentence for child porn).
She became the first survivor to file a criminal report against Nassar as well as the first of more than 160 women to talk about that abuse in public. She was also the final survivor to give her impact statement in court.
In that impact statement, Denhollander touched on the concept of forgiveness and the importance of her faith.
“You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done,” she said in her impact statement. “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, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen in this courtroom today.”
The event was organized by the Veritas Forum, a nonprofit that works with Christian students on various college campuses to, according to its website, “help students and faculty explore life’s hardest questions.”
Denhollander will be in dialogue with Harvard Professor Nancy Hill, a developmental psychologist and education professor.