Rachael Denhollander knows just how terrifying it is to publicly accuse a powerful man of sexual assault, anticipating that many people won’t believe the story.
“If my alleged abuser was named Kavanaugh, not Nassar, what would you have said to me?” Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse, tweeted on Monday morning.
Since 2016, Denhollander had led the accusations against Nassar, encouraging hundreds of other survivors to tell their stories of abuse at the hands of the former doctor, who’s now serving a life sentence on child sexual abuse charges. Now, she’s questioning Republicans’ response to the sexual assault accusation that has surfaced against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
“For years I watched family and friends eviscerate sexual assault victims who spoke up against a candidate, team, pastor, ministry or local friend they liked, and I got the message loud and clear,” Denhollander wrote in a Sunday tweet thread explaining why she waited more than a decade to come forward with her allegations against Nassar.
“And that showed me what they REALLY thought about abuse and what they REALLY thought about victims, when sexual abuse wasn’t an easy thing to condemn. I knew it meant if faced with a choice between a survivor and their favorite ‘whatever,’ they’d attack the survivor,” she wrote, adding that she watched friends and family “denigrate” the survivor’s character just to “value some political, sport or ministry goal more than the truth.”
It “felt like a knife wound” every time someone close to her attempted to smear a victim’s story, Denhollander wrote.
Now, Denhollander said, she feels as though the same story is unfolding.
“I’m watching it again. Conservatives, you are yelling from the rooftops that you don’t care what the truth is, and you aren’t safe, and you’ll attack a victim any time it would cost you to care. And that’s shameful,” she wrote. “You can, and should, do better.”
“Conservatives, you want to be the party of family values? You want to be pro-woman and pro-child? Then start by taking claims of sexual assault seriously instead of using poor logic, straw men and ad hominems to avoid the issue. Otherwise, you are part of the cultural problem,” Denhollander tweeted.
Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University in California, came forward in an interview published in The Washington Post accusing Kavanaugh of pinning her down and groping her around 1982 when the two were in high school. Ford revealed her story in a confidential letter to members of Congress in July, but didn’t publicly identify herself until the Post article on Sunday.
Survivors are always asking ‘am I safe?’ she wrote. Right now, conservatives, you are telling them ‘NO.’ Rachael Denhollander, first woman to accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse
On Thursday, the Judiciary Committee is set to vote on whether to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate. Democratic members of the committee are calling for a delay until the FBI investigates Ford’s story.
Denhollander added in a separate tweet that politicians’ reaction to Kavanaugh’s accuser will send a powerful message.
“I know what [their reaction] is doing to the abused little girls who are watching, and the women who are, inside, still those little girls. Survivors are always asking ‘am I safe?’ she wrote. “Right now, conservatives, you are telling them ‘NO.’”