How much is a little girl worth?
It is the question Rachael Denhollander asked at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, the convicted sexual abuser, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who assaulted hundreds of young women over an excruciatingly long number of years.
On Monday, a judge in federal bankruptcy court in Indiana approved a $380 million settlement for the over 500 survivors of Nassar, a settlement between them and USAG and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Michigan State, where Nassar was also employed, had previously entered into a $500 million agreement to settle more than 300 claims.
They are classified as two of the largest sexual assault settlements in this country's history, but that is certainly not any cause for celebration. Nassar is just one of the worst serial sexual abusers in history, at least that we know of.
And you cannot affix a true dollar figure to what he stole.
A little girl — her innocence, her sense of self-worth, her well-being, her body — is priceless. Life has its twists and turns, teenagers generally feel things deeply as they try to find their place in the world. The things as adults we may see as mundane can be huge to a 15-year-old. Those kinds of things — whether her crush will ask her to homecoming, if she'll do well on her geometry quiz, when she and her friends will finally memorize the latest TikTok dance — are what she should be worried about, what she should get to worry about.
She should not be consumed with fear at the thought of going to gymnastics practice because he will be there, and an adult who allegedly has her best interests in mind sends her to his office for "physical therapy."
There is no amount of money that can undo what Nassar did to his victims, the physical, emotional and mental distress they endured at his hand, under the guise of providing health care.
There is no amount of money that can erase what USA Gymnastics did by turning a blind eye to complaints about Nassar, protecting him time and time again as though he were some kind of sacred cow instead of someone who could be replaced in a heartbeat.
They protected a team doctor over the young female athletes he was abusing.
They protected a team doctor over World and Olympic medal-winning champions, who brought glory to their organization and country, whose successes led to untold little girls wanting to follow in their perfectly pointed footsteps.
Some of those little girls became more of Nassar's victims. That is how long his reign of terror lasted.
USA Gymnastics protected a team doctor over young girls. Over their innocence. Over their self-worth. Over their well-being. Over their right to their own bodies.
USAG and Michigan State kept him on staff for decades. One of the earliest known victims of Nassar was 14 when he began molesting her in 1988. A decade later, he began digitally raping the 6-year-old daughter of a family friend. That is also the first year an MSU athlete made a complaint about him.
Many of the women who are part of the settlement class need that money to pay for the care they still require, and mental health care can be exceedingly expensive and difficult to get. Survivors are experiencing anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and some have attempted suicide.
They will receive money and that money can help them pursue healing and peace, but no amount is enough.
No amount can return what Larry Nassar took from them, what USAG and Michigan State allowed him to continue to do. Those organizations did nothing for years, and seemingly only took action when the Indianapolis Star published its first report on sexual abuse within USAG in 2016 and women began sharing their stories with the paper.
How much is a little girl worth? Far more than Michigan State believed them to be. Far more than USA Gymnastics believed them to be. Far more than Monday's settlement.