LANSING, MICH. - Rachael Denhollander spent six days listening as woman after woman, more than 150, spoke about the abuse they suffered from Larry Nassar.
She listened as they spoke of the lasting trauma, suicide attempts and their perseverance through it all. Many took time to thank Denhollander by name.
Today, Denhollander, the first to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault, delivered the final victim impact statement before his sentencing later today.
And she had plenty to say. Denhollander was harshly critical of Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics and others, for silencing the women and girls who had spoken up about Nassar for decades, and for enabling his abuse.
“Larry is the most dangerous type of abuser,” Denhollander told the judge, because he groomed his victims and presented himself as wholesome. She later told Nassar that she pitied him.
Denhollander was 15 years old when she was abused by Nassar in 2000. She was the first to publicly say that Nassar abused her when she told the MSU Police Department and the Indianapolis Star in late 2016.
Her story started a wave of new sexual assault reports against Nassar, for abuses that dated back decades and happened in his Michigan State University office, at Twistars gymnastics club in Dimondale, his home and at gymnastics competitions around the world.
Denhollander spent much of her time detailing the instances when women and girls spoke up about Nassar and compared them to what an MSU doctor told police after Denhollander reported to police.
That doctor told police that Denhollander only thought she had been digitally penetrated because she didn't understand what Nassar did, Denhollander told the judge.
"It sounds eerily familiar to what every single woman was told," she said. "We were all wrong, we were all just confused."
The State Journal reported in June 2017 that between 1997 and 2015 at least seven women or girls say they raised concerns about Nassar's actions to coaches, trainers, police or university officials. He was investigated twice by police but never charged, and at least once in an internal MSU inquiry that cleared him.
Denhollander mentioned this seven instances and more during her more than 40-minute victim-impact statement, just as she has over the past 16 months during interview and news conference.
"Every time I repeat these facts about the number of women who reported to employees at MSU and were silenced, you respond the exact same way," she said, speaking to the university a few miles to the east.
"You issue a press statement saying that there was no cover up because no one who heard the reports of assault believed that Larry was committing abuse. You play word games, saying you didn't know because no one believed.
"I know that. And the reason everyone who heard about Larry's abuse did not believe it is because they did not listen."
She had long been the face of voice of the women and girls Nassar abused. She gave countless interviews with state, local and national media outlets. Over the past year, more and more victims, many of whom initially came forward as Jane Does, began to shed their anonymity and speak about their abuse publicly.
And over the course of Nassar's now seven-day sentencing hearing, the vast majority of the 156 women and girls to give impact statements had done so as well. Many said they decided the day they spoke that they wanted to be publicly identified, having been inspired by the courage of others.
Olympic medalists Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman and Jamie Dantzscher all gave impact statements in court. Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis, the lead prosecutor on the case, read an impact statement from Olympian McKayla Maroney.
But many stepped to the podium without such fame. High school and college students, mothers, medical professionals, members of the military and former collegiate atheles.
"My sexual assault was wielded like a weapon against me," Denholladner said.
She was attacked, she added, included during the preliminary hearing when Shannon Smith, one of Nassar's attorneys, asked her if she was just coming forward now for the money.
Denhollander spoke about what she gave up to come forward, to be the first. She turned her diary over to police, to be included as evidence, to ensure they would proceed.
"I did it because it was right," she said. "No matter the cost, it was right."
Nassar, 54, of Holt, pleaded guilty in November to 10 sexual assault charges split between Ingham and Eaton counties. Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina is expected to sentence Nassar today on seven of those charges, including one related to abusing Denhollander.
On Jan. 31, Nassar will be sentenced on three more sexual assault charges in Eaton County. In December, a federal judge sentenced him to 60 years in prison on three federal child pornography charges.
He must serve the entirety of federal sentence before he can serve any time of his state charges.
The plea agreement with the Michigan Attorney General's Office sets the minimum range at 25 to 40 years in prison, and the maximum can be life or any term of years.
The AG's Office has asked for a sentence of 40 to 125 years in prison, the high end representing one year for every woman and girl who as of late November had reported to police that Nassar sexually assaulted them.
© 2018 Lansing State Journal