Why you should read “What is A Girl Worth”

April 25, 2022

In What Is a Girl Worth?, Rachael Denhollander described the motive for her final statement at the Larry Nassar trial: “My heart’s cry as I spoke was . . .  to remove the excuse of ignorance. To never again let the world say, ‘We did not know (p. 305).’” These words are also a fitting summary of why she wrote this book. 

Pair that with the first sentence of her book, “Why didn’t you say something sooner (p. 1)?” and you have the bookends for why you should read her book. If we do not understand the answer to her question, we remain dangerously unaware of the things that would allow us to care well for a friend, family member, or church member who has been abused by a person in a position of power. In sincerely trying to be helpful, we could easily contribute to the problem in tragic ways.

Hearing and believing 

We often miss that, before you can heal, you must be heard and believed. Until someone is heard and believed, the damaging aftershocks of abuse continue through the effects of living with shame and secrets. The world is still inverted as the abuser is esteemed-honored-trusted and the abused is ignored-shamed-questioned.

If you wonder, “How would we shame a victim? That seems harsh or exaggerated,” Judith Herman captures well a key element in the survivor’s journey like the one Rachael tells in What Is a Girl Worth? Herman, in Trauma and Recovery, writes, “It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. [How?!?] All the perpetrator asked is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, encouragement, and remembering (p. 7-8).” 

As you read Rachael’s book, this quote will come to life. You will see the pivotal role a parent, husband, various professionals, and church family must fulfill for a survivor to be heard, believed, and supported in the pursuit of justice. You will also hear how easy it is for friends, coaches, professionals, those with power/reputation to lose, and friends of the abuser to become an obstacle to a survivor being believed and supported in the pursuit of justice.

As you read, you will have a plethora of myths deconstructed. “Survivors come forward for attention or money,” will become hollow statements as you see the emotional, relational, and financial costs associated with seeking justice. Some readers of this article may even think “seeking justice” is a non-grace, non-gospel pursuit. As you read, you will realize that the motive for seeking justice against those who abuse power to prey on others is to protect future victims. You will see that justice is the pursuit of grace for the innocent and vulnerable.

As you read, you will hear the gospel clearly presented multiple times to many audiences. Personally, I have been troubled by the number of Christians, even pastors, who have attacked and denigrated Rachael because of her advocacy against the cover up of sexual abuse. Somehow, they claim that her words and actions undermine the gospel. I would dare say those who criticize Rachael have not shared the gospel as often, as clearly, to a lost audience that is as compelled to listen, or at greater personal cost than Rachael has.

As you read, you will come to understand why it can be hard to realize that abuse has happened. Read the vulnerable journey of a child trying to process the experience of a leader in her church and a teenager going to a doctor and ask yourself, “What would I have understood about those experiences at that age?” One of the benefits of reading a biography like Rachael’s is that it allows us to ask better questions and to engage with those questions with more empathy for the context in which they must be answered.

How would you respond? 

As you read, I would invite you to ask yourself two questions:

  1. How would your church respond in 2016 if Larry Nassar were a member of your church?
  2. How would your church respond in 2016 if Rachael Denhollander were a member of your church?

The reason I give the timestamp 2016 is that this is when the outcome of the trial was unclear. Everyone knew who Larry was, and no one knew who Rachael was. Realize, you will likely know the people involved by their first name.

This is the context in which your church or you, as a friend, will make the pivotal choices that determine whether you are like the first gym owner to whom Rachael disclosed or the many people to whom disclosures about Larry were given by other gymnasts. Or, whether you will be like Jacob, the Indy Star reporter, Andrea Munford, and Angie Povilaitis. These are the moments that will radically impact the life of the person who trusts you with their disclosure. It will change their life.

After reading Rachael’s book, if you want to learn more about how to care for someone who entrusts you with their disclosure of abuse and equip your church to do the same, I would encourage you to complete the free training available at churchcares.com. This is a curriculum to which both Rachael and Andrea Munford contributed.

This article was originally posted on the Biblical Counseling Coalition blog on December 23, 2019 and was published at the ERLC with the author’s permission.

Brad Hambrick

Brad serves as the Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church in  Durham, North Carolina. He also serves as Instructor of Biblical Counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and has authored several books including Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24