“So, I ask, how much is a little girl worth? How much priority should be placed on communicating that the fullest weight of the law will be used to protect another innocent child…?” (Rachel Denhollander)
These words have haunted me since she echoed them in the courtroom at Larry Nassar’s hearing. Rachel Denhollander was the first woman to publicly speak about being sexually assaulted. The bravery she showed knowing there would be too many that would doubt her and even some who would shame her, exemplifies the resiliency of women. She stepped forward in her truth and opened up a wound so large that no one could have imagined what would come next. My guess is she didn’t know there were hundreds of others, she simply knew her truth and could not live in a world where justice was not served. Sometimes truth finds the light in the darkest of circumstances, sometimes it can take weeks, months, or years, but the truth still remains. Rachel knew her worth, the one that her abuser had methodically tried to take from her. The worth he tried to break her of. And then she stood up and she asked for every little girl’s worth to be invaluable, to be important beyond measure, to be defended. She demanded that not just those affected in that courtroom but every little girl and woman would know that society viewed their lives to be worth “every protection the law can offer” as well.
At the center of so many horrific things we see happen to women in this country and around the world is that very question…how much is a little girl worth? Are we worth defending against sexual assault? Are we worth believing when we step forward? Are we worth protecting? Are we worth taking seriously when there is only one who steps forward?
In the past year the #MeToo movement opened the flood gates of truth not just in Hollywood but around this country. The women of USA gymnastics took down a man, long protected by powerful institutions, but let us not forget they had to wait years to be heard and to be believed. Why are we speaking out now? Why are there are so many voices coming forward? Some people want to take the easy way out and brush it off as what ‘boys do’ or say it is because ‘women lie’, but those are BULLSHIT excuses. So many of us are speaking now because we saw our mothers and grandmothers silenced. We saw them live in a world where their truth did not matter and it ate away at them slowly. We see them continue to struggle with those horrific events and yet never be taken seriously. We have seen our friends deal with the lasting negative effects of their sexual assault or we have faced it ourselves. We are tired of living in a constant state of fear or asking ourselves what we can do to prevent an assault. We are tired of the fear of walking alone at night, watching our drinks, and second guessing what we wear. We are done asking for the country and the world to see us as valuable and demanding that our experiences be heard. We are angry and it is time that the world heard our collective voice of rage. What we are learning is that we can no longer wait for society to determine our worth or our believability. We can no longer wait for them to decide if we are worthy of protection. We will determine our worth. We will demand it. We will fight for it. We are tired of begging society to see us as valuable, as equal, as believable. We will not ask for permission anymore to speak our truth. We won’t apologize for things that are not our fault. We will protect the next generations. We will not just hope for a better future for them but demand it.
How much is a little girl worth? We cannot put a price tag on it. We cannot put a limit on it. We cannot put an amount of truth on it. We cannot put a timeline on it. It is time for every one of us to step up, male and female. It is time to believe in a girl’s worth, in a woman’s worth, not just at birth but throughout their lifetime. It is time to understand that a girl’s future is as important as any others’. This is no longer just a time to say we agree about a girl's worth but a time that requires us to act on those beliefs. It is time to believe them, trust them, protect them, and stand with them.