Rachael Denhollander Says Christian Colleges Are Key in Fighting Against Sex Abuse

Rachael Denhollander speaks during the Presidents Conference of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Washington. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Abuse survivor and activist Rachael Denhollander brought her advocacy to presidents of evangelical colleges, urging them at their annual conference to not discount sexual abuse but to instead support survivors who report it.

“As Christian institutions you are the most equipped to condemn sexual abuse and objectification,” she told dozens of attendees of the Presidents Conference of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities on Friday (Jan. 31). “You are the most equipped to help survivors to understand and teach your students to understand this is wrong. It is evil. And it matters to me because it matters to God.”

Denhollander is a lawyer and former gymnast who was the first woman to publicly accuse former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual assault. She has been encouraging denomination leaders and churches to increase their attention and response to sexual abuse and has recently authored the book “What Is a Girl Worth?”

“What you need to understand is that when you do not do this with your policies, your counseling programs, your classes and how you are educating the next generation, when you do not do this, you are not in agreement with what God says, you are not properly portraying the character of an all-holy God.”

Shirley V. Hoogstra addresses the Presidents Conference
of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities on
Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Washington. RNS photo by
Adelle M. Banks

Shirley V. Hoogstra, CCCU president, introduced Denhollander to the conference, a three-day gathering of 100 presidents of evangelical higher education institutions, and affirmed the need to address the issue with faith and compassion.

“Human beings take advantage of others for their own purpose, but, because of our faith, we can actually look unsparingly at these events,” said Hoogstra, whose organization timed the discussion to pending changes in Title IX regulations that govern how colleges address sex discrimination. “We can face the real facts and potentially be a redemptive force amid human failing.”

Kathryn Nash, a higher education attorney with the firm Lathrop GPM, joined Denhollander and Hoogstra for the plenary titled “The Lion and the Lamb: How Christian Theology Shapes Our Approach and Response to Abuse.”

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Source: Religion News Service

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