In her first appearance since the testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford partnered with Sports Illustrated to present the magazine’s “Inspiration of the Year” award to Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to speak up about the abuse of Dr. Larry Nassar.
After Denhollander spoke up about the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of USA Gymnastics physician Dr. Nassar, more than 300 women and girls also reported abuse and 251 joined with Denhollander to file a federal lawsuit. Nassar was convicted and was sentenced to life in prison.
“I am honored to speak with you from afar about a woman I admire so much,” Ford said in the video, set to air on Sport’s Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year Awards Thursday night.
“Rachel Denhollander, I am in awe of you and I will always be inspired by you. In stepping forward, you took a huge risk and you galvanized future generations to come forward even when the odds are seemingly stacked against them. The lasting lesson is we all have the power to create real change and we cannot allow ourselves to be defined by the acts of others.”
Watch the video below:
In her first public statement since September, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford presents Sports Illustrated’s Inspiration of the Year Award to Rachael Denhollander https://t.co/2lBOB9nVDk pic.twitter.com/AjRYVYfOmS
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 12, 2018
During Ford’s testimony, Denhollander was a stark supporter and compared Ford’s case to hers. “As Dr. Ford was testifying that she didn’t come forward earlier because she was afraid she’d be blamed and humiliated, two of my sister survivors were in court testifying that they came forward about Larry and were blamed and humiliated,” she tweeted in September. “How you respond to both cases matters.”
As Dr. Ford was testifying that she didn't come forward earlier because she was afraid she'd be blamed and humiliated, two of my sister survivors were in court testifying that they came forward about Larry and were blamed and humiliated. How you respond to both cases matters.
— Rachael Denhollander (@R_Denhollander) September 29, 2018
Denhollander also defended Ford against President Donald Trump when he questioned why Ford didn’t go to the police after she was allegedly assaulted. Denhollander responded by giving her own reasons to why she didn’t report her case right away. “Because describing what happened was unthinkable. Because the public backlash was unthinkable. Because I saw survivors who spoke out attacked at every turn, and silence became safer than speaking.”
Denhollander didn’t report her abuse by Dr. Nassar until 16 years after the fact.
Because describing what happened was unthinkable. Because the public backlash was unthinkable. Because I saw survivors who spoke out attacked at every turn, and silence became safer than speaking. #whyIdidntreport https://t.co/puUIf1xz61
— Rachael Denhollander (@R_Denhollander) September 21, 2018
The former gymnast is a self-described conservative but said the way Republicans handled the Ford accusation was “excruciating” in an op-ed she published in Vox this October.
“The real litmus test of whether our society cares about sexual abuse is how we respond when the allegations are against someone in our community,” she wrote. “We have failed that test.”
Now, Ford got the chance to repay Denhollander for her staunch support, one survivor to another.