On Tuesday evening, Sports Illustrated announced the person they were acknowledging as their “Inspiration of the Year.” They made a singularly appropriate choice, naming Rachel Denhollander, the lawyer and gymnast who was the first woman to come forward with charges of sexual assault against former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nasser.
But Sports Illustrated also chose someone whom some people might find inappropriate to present the award: Christine Blasey Ford, who made uncorroborated, unverifiable, and unsubstantiated accusations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh that he had sexually assaulted her when they were both teenagers. As Rachel Mitchell, Nominations Investigative Counsel United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, wrote in a comprehensive analysis of Blasey Ford’s testimony:
In the legal context, here is my bottom line: A “he said, she said” case is incredibly difficult to prove. But this case is even weaker than that. Dr. Ford identified other witnesses to the event, and those witnesses either refuted her allegations or failed to corroborate them. For the reasons discussed below, I do not think that a reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence before the Committee. Nor do I believe that this evidence is sufficient to satisfy the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard … Dr. Ford has not offered a consistent account of when the alleged assault happened … Dr. Ford has struggled to identify Judge Kavanaugh as the assailant by name … Dr. Ford has no memory of key details of the night in question—details that could help corroborate her account … Dr. Ford’s account of the alleged assault has not been corroborated by anyone she identified as having attended—including her lifelong friend.
In her taped message for Sports Illustrated, Blasey Ford stated:
Good evening. I am honored to speak with you from afar about a woman I admire so much, a woman who suffered abuse as a vulnerable teenaged athlete who found the courage to talk publicly to stop the abuse of others. Her courage inspired other survivors to end their silence, and we all know the result. 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 that we all have the power to create real change and we cannot allow ourselves to be defined by the acts of others. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome this year’s Sports Illustrated Inspiration of the Year, Rachel Denhollander.
Sports Illustrated explained:
Denhollander filed a federal lawsuit against Nassar at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. Two-hundred and fifty-one other former gymnasts, along with 23 husbands of gymnasts, also brought up claims consolidated into her suit. Following Denhollander’s lead, more than 300 women in total have said they were sexually assaulted by Nassar.
Nassar was sentenced up to 175 years on Michigan state charges of sexual assault, in addition to a sentence of 40 to 125 years in prison on three counts of sexual assault. He also was given a 60-year sentence on federal child-pornography charges.
Denhollander was the last witness to offer a victim statement at the hearing for Nasser; a powerful, 36 minute-speech in which she stated, “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 from the soul shattering devastation that sexual assault brings? I submit to you that these children are worth everything. Worth every protection the law can offer. Worth the maximum sentence.”
Her speech in its entirety can be seen below: