Rachael Denhollander is an attorney, author, advocate, and educator who is recognized as a leading voice on the topic of sexual abuse. Possessing a unique blend of professional skills, personal experiences, and dynamic communication style, she is a sought-after media commentator, speaker, and consultant. Her grasp of legal issues, corporate ethics, effective leadership strategies, and investigative practices are coupled with a trauma-informed, deeply compassionate understanding of the realities facing survivors of sexual abuse and their path toward healing. Bridging the gap between survivors and the society and institutions that may have failed them, Rachael forces audiences to ask the question, “What is a girl or boy worth?” while equipping them with the tools to answer, “Everything.”
Rachael Denhollander became known internationally in 2016 as the first woman to pursue criminal charges and speak publicly against USA Gymnastics’ team doctor Larry Nassar, one of the most prolific sexual abusers in recorded history. As a result of her activism over 300 women—including numerous Olympic medalists—came forward as survivors of Nassar’s abuse, eventually leading to his life imprisonment. Her courageous tenacity and ongoing advocacy helped trigger a complete upheaval at both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where former executives and high-ranking officials face numerous criminal charges for their complicity in covering up Nassar’s abuse and lying about what they knew. Rachael was instrumental in helping secure a record-setting $500 million settlement with Michigan State University for Nassar survivors in 2018, and a further $380 million settlement with USA Gymnastics in 2021. In 2019 she published an autobiographical account of her experience entitled, “What is a Girl Worth?: My Story of Breaking the Silence and Exposing the Truth about Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics.”
Rachael has extensive experience working with corporate boards, executive leadership, and politicians to help them understand how to lead with courage and integrity through crisis, how to communicate their values within their organizations and to the public, and how to properly respond to reports of abuse. She has been called to testify by many legislative bodies, including Canada’s House of Commons. She has advised the boards of some of the nation’s largest universities as they seek to address failures to adequately respond to abuse on their campuses. With extensive experience in the political realm, she has proven an effective advocate in helping push through vital legislative changes at the state level to make it easier for survivors of abuse to obtain justice.
For her work as an advocate and educator on sexual assault, Rachael was named one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Inﬂuential People in the World” and one of Glamour Magazine’s “Women of the Year” in 2018. Additionally, she received the “Inspiration of the Year” award from Sports Illustrated, was a joint recipient of ESPN’s “Arthur Ashe Courage Award,” and was named a “Michiganian of the Year” by the Detroit News, along numerous other awards and recommendations.
Rachael has engaged audiences with lectures and live Q & A’s on the campus of numerous universities across the nation, including Harvard, Stanford, NYU, Columbia Law School, UC Berkeley, USC, Pepperdine, and others. She has lectured on leadership at both the United States Military Academy at West Point and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, and been invited to keynote the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s annual conference. Rachael is a highly effective fundraising speaker for child advocacy centers, women’s shelters, and other organizations on the front lines of confronting abuse.
A member of the California Bar Association, Rachael has educated attorneys on the dynamics of sexual abuse at the American Bar Association’s Sports Law Forum, addressed top corporate attorneys on issues of institutional ethics and fiduciary responsibility at NYU Law School, and instructed attorneys at the annual meeting of the Kentucky Bar Association. Additionally, Rachael was the commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony of Brandeis School of Law in 2018.
She has appeared on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX News, BBC, PBS, NPR, CBC and regularly appears in national and international print media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Wall Street Journal, and the Associated Press, and is a New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, and Vox op-ed contributor.
Rachael holds a Juris Doctorate from Oak Brook College of Law and possesses an honorary doctorate from the American University of Paris.
Rachael lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband Jacob and their four young children.
“You started the tidal wave. You made all of this happen. You made
all of these voices matter. Your sister survivors and I thank you. You
are the bravest person I have ever had in my courtroom.”