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Victim Offers God's Grace to Larry Nassar, If He Feels 'the Soul-Crushing Weight of Guilt'

Young woman testifies behind a microphone.

Rachael Denhollander, the former gymnast, lawyer, and mother of three who first accused sports physician Larry Nassar of sexual abuse a year and a half ago, used her sentencing recommendation to forgive the man who abused her and to send him a powerful message about repentance. She offered him forgiveness, but insisted that he needed God's forgiveness far more, and that would require an understanding of the "soul-crushing weight of guilt."

"I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well," Denhollander declared on Wednesday.

She laid out the gospel of Jesus Christ in a brief statement: "If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way."

Even though this victim forgave her abuser, she still suggested the worst possible sentence for the sports physician who pled guilty to sexually assaulting at least 156 women in his career of treating America's foremost Olympic women gymnasts.

Her recommendation held, and Nassar received up to 175 years in prison. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina famously said, "I just signed your death warrant."

Denhollander pushed for this sentence hoping it would open the door to the ultimate forgiveness her abuser needs, by pushing him toward true repentance.

Throughout the hearing, Nassar spoke of praying for forgiveness. Denhollander suggested that he had a wrong view of sin, however, and an unrepentant heart.

"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," the victim said. "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 this courtroom today."

Nassar abused Denhollander in 2000, when she was a 15-year-old club gymnast in Michigan. She and other victims told their stores throughout the seven-day sentencing hearing.

The lawyer and mother of three emphasized that Nassar should not expect "cheap grace" from God. Forgiveness requires true repentance, and repentance requires a full understanding of the depths of your own sin.

"You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires, a man defined by his daily choices repeatedly to feed that selfishness and perversion," Denhollander told her abuser. "You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others and the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially, no matter what it costs me."