If you don’t know the name Rachael Denhollander, you should…especially if you have a daughter. Many of us heard the name this past spring when former Team USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was convicted of multiple counts of child sexual assault. Rachael Denhollander was the first woman brave enough to come forward and say out loud what Nassar had done to her, the first woman to push for him to be held legally accountable for what she knew was years of abuse, and what she suspected was widespread.
Rachael Denhollander was an accomplished gymnast, but never a highly-decorated gymnast. Yet to many Olympic gold medal-winning gymnasts, she is now a hero. She brought evil into the light for the hundreds of girls that Nassar abused. She is one of my heroes now, too.
What’s more, Rachael Denhollander is an outspoken Christian, and she has challenged the church on their insufficient responses to victims of sexual assault.
Another reason I count Rachael Denhollander as a hero: she not only stood up for her “Sister Survivors” as Nassar’s victims are now known, she also stood up to her own church and the church at large when they minimized the incidences of sexual assault and its consequences within the church. For too long the church has hidden the sins of its members to avoid embarrassment and shame, and to protect itself at the expense of sexual abuse victims. Denhollander refused to be silenced on that subject while she had the ear of the nation at large, and I applaud her for it. As the mother of daughters, how could one expect her to do anything less?
Denhollander did not join her fellow Sister Survivors last week when they received ESPN’s prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs because she was due to give birth to her fourth child any day, and indeed, on July 4th she gave birth to a new baby girl, named Elora Renee Joy Denhollander.
Rachael Denhollander gave her new daughter a very powerful and significant name.
“We chose the name Elora, which means ‘To God belongs the victory,’ because we believe that these two years have beautifully reminded us that it is God who has victory over darkness and evil,” Denhollander told TODAY via email.
The baby’s next name, Renee, is for a very special person in Denhollander’s fight against sexual assault: Detective Lt. Andrea Renee Munford, whose persistent pursuit of Larry Nassar ultimately led to his conviction.
“Her middle name Renee is first after Dt. Lt. Andrea Renee Munford, and it means ‘rebirth’ or ‘redemption.’ We chose this because it was Andrea’s choice to listen, fight for what was right, and fight for us, that made is possible to have victory over so much wickedness this year,” Denhollander continued.
Rachael Denhollander has said that Detective Lieutenant Munford was “the first person to hear me, to hear the survivors, and to fight for what was right, no matter what.”
The baby’s final name, Joy, the new mom says, “is a reminder of the joy that comes with faithfulness to what is right, and rebirth after so much pain.”
Rachael Denhollander’s wish for her children
Denhollander says she wants her kids to understand what a hero Munford is to their family and to others. “I want all my children to know about the impact of fighting for what is right, the way Dt. Lt. Andrea Munford did, long before we knew how big this case was,” she told TODAY. “She was faithful when it seemed like a small case and it was just me.”
She also joked in the email that they needed to have another daughter so they could honor Nassar’s prosecutor, former Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis,
“I just need one more daughter now, to name for Angela, the prosecutor who also made this possible!” she wrote. “I’m so grateful Elora, and all my children, have these examples of strong integrity, to look to as they grow.”
Elora Renee Joy.
Elora – to God belongs the victory.
Renee – Rebirth, redemption. And after Dt. Lt. Andrea Renee Munford, who fought for us and made redeeming so much evil, possible.
Just need a few more babies so we can have namesakes for the others who fought for us too 🙂 pic.twitter.com/L6pIhPtXoB
— Rachael Denhollander (@R_Denhollander) July 21, 2018
I for one absolutely love the name Rachael Denhollander chose for her new baby girl, and I love what and who it stands for. I am guessing there might, in the future, be a baby girl or two named for Denhollander as well, as she was the first woman to be brave enough to go public with her charges against Nassar, leading the way for his conviction, for justice for other victims, and for the prevention of further abuse.
Best wishes and prayers to the Denhollanders as they celebrate this beautiful new life!