First victim to file complaint against Larry Nassar speaks out

The first victim to file a police complaint against former sports doctor Larry Nassar penned a gut-wrenching op-ed in The New York Times Friday following the pervy predator’s sentencing Wednesday.

Rachael Denhollander, who filed a complaint against Nassar on Aug. 29, 2016, outlined what she gained—and what was lost—by coming forward about the sexual abuse she suffered as a teen and advocating on behalf of other victims.

“I lost my church. I lost my closest friends as a result of advocating for survivors who had been victimized by similar institutional failures in my own community,” Denhollander wrote in The New York Times Friday.

“I lost every shred of privacy.”

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Victims of Larry Nassar confront him in court
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Victims of Larry Nassar confront him in court
Victim Rachael Denhollander speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Abuse victim Jessica Thomashow addresses former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar during the sentencing phase in in Eaton, County Circuit Court on January 31, 2018 in Charlotte, Michigan. The number of identified sexual abuse victims of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has grown to 265, a Michigan judge announced Wednesday as a final sentencing hearing commenced. Prosecutors said at least 65 victims were to confront Nassar in court, in the last of three sentencing hearings for the disgraced doctor who molested young girls and women for two decades in the guise of medical treatment. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Erin Blayer, a victim of former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar during the sentencing phase in Eaton, County Circuit Court on January 31, 2018 in Charlotte, Michigan. The number of identified sexual abuse victims of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has grown to 265, a Michigan judge announced Wednesday as a final sentencing hearing commenced. Prosecutors said at least 65 victims were to confront Nassar in court, in the last of three sentencing hearings for the disgraced doctor who molested young girls and women for two decades in the guise of medical treatment. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Tiffany Dutton, ,a victim of former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar stands with her husband Chad, during the sentencing phase in Eaton, County Circuit Court on January 31, 2018 in Charlotte, Michigan. The number of identified sexual abuse victims of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has grown to 265, a Michigan judge announced Wednesday as a final sentencing hearing commenced. Prosecutors said at least 65 victims were to confront Nassar in court, in the last of three sentencing hearings for the disgraced doctor who molested young girls and women for two decades in the guise of medical treatment. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Victim Kaylee Lorincz wipes tears as she speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victims and others look on as Rachael Denhollander speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Sterling Riethman speaks as former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar listens during impact statements during the sentencing phase in Ingham County Circuit Court on January 24, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. More than 100 women and girls accuse Nassar of a pattern of serial abuse dating back two decades, including the Olympic gold-medal winners Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney -- who have lashed out at top sporting officials for failing to stop him. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar gives an impact statement during the sentencing phase in Ingham County Circuit Court on January 24, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. More than 100 women and girls accuse Nassar of a pattern of serial abuse dating back two decades, including the Olympic gold-medal winners Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney -- who have lashed out at top sporting officials for failing to stop him. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Kayla Spicher delivers a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar who has been accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: With her mother by her side, Kayla Spicher (R) delivers a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar who has been accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: With her mother by her side, Helena Weick delivers a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar who has been accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Larry Nassar (R) listens to a victim impact statement from Tiffany Lopez during his sentencing hearing after being accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Larry Nassar listens to victim impact statements during his sentencing hearing after being accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Larry Nassar (R) listens to a victim impact statement from Jeanette Antolin during his sentencing hearing after being accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: Gwen Anderson, standing with her former gymnastics coach Tom Brennen, reads a victim impact statement during Larry Nassar's sentencing hearing on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. More than 100 women and girls have accused Nassar of molesting them. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Victim Emma Ann Miller (C) speaks along side her mother Leslie Miller (R) at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, (L) a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
LANSING, MI - JANUARY 17: With her husband by her side, Chelsea Williams delivers a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar who has been accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, where he had his sports-medicine practice on January 17, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Nassar has pleaded guilty in Ingham County, Michigan, to sexually assaulting seven girls, but the judge is allowing all his accusers to speak. Nassar is currently serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison for possession of child pornography. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Abuse victim Jessica Thomashow addresses former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar during the sentencing phase in Eaton, County Circuit Court on January 31, 2018 in Charlotte, Michigan. The number of identified sexual abuse victims of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has grown to 265, a Michigan judge announced Wednesday as a final sentencing hearing commenced. Prosecutors said at least 65 victims were to confront Nassar in court, in the last of three sentencing hearings for the disgraced doctor who molested young girls and women for two decades in the guise of medical treatment. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Victim Hannah Morrow speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, (L) a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim Kaylee McDowell speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim and former gymnast Aly Raisman appears before speaking at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim and former gymnast Aly Raisman appears before speaking at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim and former gymnast Bailey Lorencen speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim Clasina Syrovy speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, sits in the courtroom during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina presides over the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim Clasina Syrovy speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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While her legal training prepared her for the process of filing a complaint, she said “absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the pain of being the first to go public with my accusations.’

Denhollander’s allegations that Nassar sexually assaulted her when she received treatment for lower back pain as a 15-year-old gymnast in 2000 were first reported by The Indianapolis Star on Sept. 12, 2016.

She said she avoided grocery stores on some days to ensure the privacy of her children.

“I was asked questions about things no one should know when I least wanted to talk,” she said in the op-ed.

It was also hard for her to make new friends.

“When a new friend googled my name or added me as a friend on Facebook, the most intimate details of my life became available long before we had even exchanged phone numbers,” she said.

She said skeptics accused her of being an “ambulance chaser” or said she was just “looking for a payday” by trying to move the case against Nassar forward.

Those suggestions were “crushing,” Denhollander said.

They also reminded her how important her voice—and those of other survivors—would be in fighting a system that tolerated years of abuse.

“All of it served as a reminder: These were the very cultural dynamics that had allowed Larry Nassar to remain in power,” she wrote.

12 PHOTOS
Rachael Denhollander, first woman to publicly accuse Larry Nassar of abuse
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Rachael Denhollander, first woman to publicly accuse Larry Nassar of abuse
Victim Rachael Denhollander speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Rachael Denhollander who was victimized by former Former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar is consoled by her husband Jacob after the sentencing phase in Ingham County Circuit Court on January 24, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on Wednesday for sexually abusing scores of young girls under the guise of medical treatment. 'I've just signed your death warrant,' Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said as she handed down the sentence after a week of gut-wrenching testimony by over 150 of Nassar's victims. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Victim Rachael Denhollander listens as Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, is sentenced in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim Rachael Denhollander arrives at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim Rachael Denhollander is embraced by her husband Jacob after she spoke at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Victim Rachael Denhollander (R) is embraced by prosecutor Angela Povilaitis after Denhollander spoke at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Rachael Denhollander (C) the first woman to publicly say she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar, the former physician for the U.S. womens gymnastics team is hugged during a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court on November 22, 2017 in Lansing, Michigan. Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Lawrence (Larry) Nassar, accused of molesting dozens of female athletes over several decades, on Wednesday pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Nassar -- who was involved with USA Gymnastics for nearly three decades and worked with the country's gymnasts at four separate Olympic Games -- could face at least 25 years in prison on the charges brought in Michigan. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Victim Rachael Denhollander speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Rachael Denhollander who was victimized by former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar listens during the sentencing phase in Ingham County Circuit Court on January 24, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. Disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on Wednesday for sexually abusing scores of young girls under the guise of medical treatment. 'I've just signed your death warrant,' Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said as she handed down the sentence after a week of gut-wrenching testimony by over 150 of Nassar's victims. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 25: Rachael Denhollander and Kyle Stephens are seen walking out of CBS Morning Show on January 25, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
Kaylee Lorincz(R) hugs Rachael Denhollander as former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar listens to impact statements during the sentencing phase in Ingham County Circuit Court on January 24, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. More than 100 women and girls accuse Nassar of a pattern of serial abuse dating back two decades, including the Olympic gold-medal winners Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney -- who have lashed out at top sporting officials for failing to stop him. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Rachael Denhollander speaks as former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar listens to impact statements during the sentencing phase in Ingham County Circuit Court on January 24, 2018 in Lansing, Michigan. More than 100 women and girls accuse Nassar of a pattern of serial abuse dating back two decades, including the Olympic gold-medal winners Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney -- who have lashed out at top sporting officials for failing to stop him. / AFP PHOTO / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
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Judge Rosemarie Aquilina on Wednesday sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison after 156 survivors. including Olympic gymnasts, gave statements over seven days.

“Over the course of the trial, we became an army determined to expose the greatest sexual assault scandal in sports history. And we succeeded,” Denhollander wrote.

“The pain we shared knit us together instantly,” she said.

Denhollander made recommendations for stemming future sexual abuse.

“There is much that needs to be done legislatively, including extending or removing the statute of limitations on criminal and civil charges related to sexual assault, and strengthening mandatory reporting laws and ensuring truth in sentencing, so that dangerous offenders are not released early to damage more children.”

She condemned authorities that either protected abusers or turned a blind eye to their behavior.

“The result of putting reputation and popularity ahead of girls and young women? The vile stories you heard in that courtroom this week, all of which could have been prevented,” Denhollander said.

“Now that the world has been transfixed by our case, we must make sure not even one more young woman is preyed upon like I was.”

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