When she stood in a Michigan courtroom last year to make the last of 156 victim impact statements in the sentencing hearing for her abuser, Rachael Denhollander spoke with eloquent conviction and theological wisdom about forgiveness and justice—two terms she says are often misused and misunderstood, sometimes in ways that compound the trauma of the survivors of abuse. Sadly, some of the deepest damage can occur within the church, where Denhollander says flawed theology and insular authority structures too often silence survivors. In this conversation with Karen Saupe at Calvin College, Den Hollander explained where churches go wrong, and how sound theology, knowledegable and accountable leadership, and a supportive community can help the church to be a place of healing.
Special thanks to Kristi Potter, Karen Saupe, and her students for arranging and hosting this interview while Denhollander was on campus to speak to at the January Series at Calvin College.
Rachael Denhollander is an attorney, educator, and advocate.
Karen Saupe is professor of English at Calvin College.