A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Walking Through Abuse with a Loved One – Jacob and Rachael Denhollander share their experiences

Rachael suffered sexual abuse as a child, from two male perpetrators. One was a church leader, the other was Dr Larry Nassar who is now in jail for abusing multiple girls in his role as doctor for high level gymnasts. Rachael’s husband, Jacob, is not a survivor of sexual abuse.

Rachael and Jacob describe how in their relationship they have walked through the difficulties of Rachael having been traumatized by these perpetrators of abuse.

Many readers of this blog have never experienced having a spouse who is kind and humble and willing to learn, like Jacob is. Watching this video may bring up grief for you. You may feel sad that you have never experienced such kindness from a spouse.

Some of our readers are supporting other survivors of abuse. Some of you are married to survivors of abuse. If either of those conditions apply to you, I think you will find Jacob’s testimony very interesting and helpful.

The video lasts for 1 hr and 10 mins. First Rachael and Jacob tell their story, then they answer questions from the audience.

Jacob and Rachael gave this talk at the Valued Conference in April 2019.




  1. The Wild Mustang Mall Team

    Excellent! Thanks so much for posting this video. God bless the Denhollanders.

  2. Finding Answers

    Thank you for posting this video, Barb, SO many pictures in my mind as I watched.

    Oddly enough, I did not experience the grief / sadness I thought I might, perhaps because my own experience as a survivor is vastly different.

    Some valuable points were made throughout the video, though I suspect each person watching the video will come away with a different series of points deemed valuable.

    I am grateful I had the opportunity to watch / listen.

  3. Kind of Anonymous

    This is great, I have watched almost all of it but will have to come back to it later. Some very validating and helpful points and affirmation that the flashback stuff is normal and not something I am doing intentionally to be a selfish jerk, although it certainly seems selfish. I got to the question and answer part so I am hoping someone might ask about that a bit more. Hearing her and her husband talk about the imbalances in how the church portrays sexuality and gender was very helpful too. Thanks for posting this, what an eye opening discussion.

  4. Krikit

    This was great to see and hear; affirming that there are, at last, some positive changes happening within Christendom to address the systemic erroneous views of church authority, and the all-to-often lack of Godly pastoral care. Thank you.

  5. Anon Girl

    I feel so terrible for Rachael as I too know what it is like to experience sexual abuse, although she went through a lot more than I did as a child. I wish I could hug her. I understand (at least some of) her pain.

    Have any of you noticed how so much of the church appears to have stopped being the salt and light it was always supposed to be?

    I personally believe we are very close to the Lord’s return and perhaps it’s a natural result of all the increasing lawlessness Jesus said would happen as we got closer to His return. I don’t know.

    I do know that while I am immensely grateful for the relationship I have with Jesus today, it also infuriates me and breaks my heart to see how little the “church” appears to care about abuse victims.

    I personally experienced emotional abuse and total rejection from my egg donor, and when I, as a young preteen/teenage girl, made the VERY BIG MISTAKE of turning to my so-called “church” and to my female pastor for understanding and support and to give me the mother/daughter love I craved so very badly, I was not taken seriously.

    My feelings were not taken seriously because my age was apparently not a high enough number to warrant me being taken seriously. (You all know how sometimes adults really can make the huge mistake of assuming that because a person is young, that automatically means they don’t know what they’re talking about. That’s how I was treated.)

    And because I really do believe the vast majority of churches out there would GLADLY sweep child abuse and domestic abuse victims under the rug to protect the reputations of their so-called leaders, I will have absolutely nothing to do with the monstrosity that calls itself “the church.”

    I am always in love with Jesus and so grateful for the relationship we have today, but because of my experiences, I have to basically let the believers I find online be my church.

    The highly corrupt organization that calls itself the church that devours abuse victims is NOT something that a true believer can ever support or be a part of in good conscience (IMHO).

    Anyway, because of my childhood, I always felt extremely insecure in my relationship with God and terrified that if I sinned too badly, Jesus would change His mind about saving me. Mercifully, we’ve moved beyond that now and I know that we are saved because of what Jesus did for humanity on the cross and NOT because of anything we do or don’t do.

    (Another reason I cannot be a part of the “church” today is because in one way or another, they try to preach a subtle faith + works gospel and it REALLY messed up my walk with the Lord for many years. Plus, if one of your own parents betrays you on the level mine did, it doesn’t make it too easy to trust someone who calls Himself your Heavenly Father.)

    Anyway, sorry for the lengthy post. I’m just naturally a very “wordy” person. However before I go, I want to paste an online gospel tract that I try to share wherever I go online. Maybe somebody will come across it who needs to read it, who knows? For everybody who has stayed with me this long, thank you very much for your time, and God bless.

    Religion says look at yourself. Grace says look at the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Religion says look at your works. Grace says look at the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ for our sins.

    Religion says you must give God your life. Grace says God gave you his life, just receive.

    Religion says you must love God. Grace says God loves you.

    Religion says God comes and goes based upon your behavior. Grace says once saved I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

    Religion says sin can remove you from salvation. Grace says once saved you are a purchased possession sealed by the Holy Spirit of God.

    Religion is dead and can not give life. Grace is the Lord Jesus Christ and all he gives is life! Salvation is not an earned reward but a free gift from God we do not deserve.

    It’s not what we do, but what Christ has done for us that saves us.

    If you’re trusting in anything other than the finished work of Christ then you’re trusting in yourself instead of trusting in Christ alone.

    Salvation is not based on what we’re doing for God, but what God has done for us. Our performance doesn’t merit salvation. No amount of works can contribute to salvation.

    Satan tricks people into thinking that they’re saved based on their behavior, the problem then becomes is that people trust in their ability to save themselves or keep themselves saved. No one can keep themselves saved, only Jesus does.

    Many people want to play a part in their salvation by trying to do their best, when in reality, our best could never be good enough.

    It comes down to this, either you trust in Christ’s finished work, that He died to pay for your sins by shedding His blood was buried and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures for your justification, or you trust what you’re doing.

    What Christ did was enough. IT IS FINISHED!
    The question is. Will you receive it? Believe the gospel ALONE.

    But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:5)

    Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. (Titus 3:5)

    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

    Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

    For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

    For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

    • Dear Anon Girl thank you SO MUCH for your comment. I was blessed in multiple ways by reading it. 🙂 🙂

      I added paragraph breaks to what you wrote, to make it easier for other readers to digest. Thank you for passing on the truth.

      I want to hug you as a sister in Christ. 🙂

    • Anon Girl, I don’t know how much you have followed or been aware of what we have at this website… so in case you haven’t explored the site much I would like to encourage you to check out our New Users page and our FAQ page.

  6. Kind of Anonymous

    Anon Girl, how I can relate to your comments about the church and how they treat people. I observed many times that the church talked out of both sides of its mouth in terms of the values they held. I couldn’t understand why, in the Christian circles I travelled in, that there was so much hoopla and talk about God, grace, the baptism of the Spirit, fire on the altar, etc and yet the way we all actually lived at core was largely unchanged. Just like what Jesus said to the Pharisees; they had a superficial layer of whitewash that made them look wonderful and pious and they did good deeds in such way that people were forced to take notice yet they were whitewashed tombs full of corruption and decay.

    I also really appreciated the contrasting of grace and law. That’s an area I have a lot of trouble with probably for many of the same reasons you do. I also think the flesh loves religion, probably because it likes to trust in itself, being opposed to the Spirit. A lot of trouble comes from mixing the two covenants and I have heard it said that most churches preach grace but live law. I suspect this is at least in part, what turns grace backwards, this corruption of mixture of the two covenants. I am still working on understanding what the real gospel is and what it is to really know Jesus so my understanding isn’t there yet.

    • Finding Answers

      Kind Of Anonymous,

      To your entire comment of 23RD MAY 2019 – 9:22 AM: ^^That.

    • Artina

      I can relate to this, Kind Of Anonymous and Anon Girl, :

      “I also really appreciated the contrasting of grace and law. That’s an area I have a lot of trouble with probably for many of the same reasons you do. I also think the flesh loves religion, probably because it likes to trust in itself, being opposed to the Spirit. A lot of trouble comes from mixing the two covenants and I have heard it said that most churches preach grace but live law. I suspect this is at least in part, what turns grace backwards, this corruption of mixture of the two covenants. I am still working on understanding what the real gospel is and what it is to really know Jesus so my understanding isn’t there yet.”

      I appreciate the repetition in scripture. I need it. I agree that we need others, which has been a delight and then a struggle and sometimes even a dilemma. I, also, am still working on my understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve had conversations about, and saw a video referring to, duty versus grace and grace is what I want to trust in, agreeing that duty doesn’t have a center core of love motive.

      At times, hearing a sermon, when I more consistently attended organized church, I felt the insecurity due to my early upbringing. Then, later had the sense that “clipping” (reference to soccer/football) or maybe it was “quenching” was going on, possibly intentionally. Now that would be fine if it was stomping my “flesh”, but abusive if it was clobbering my and my children’s (as trauma survivors) God given, Spirit led, human dignity rather than the remembrance of and proactive practice of instruction and promises like “building one another up”, things that led me to organized church in the first place. Interestingly, hearing a woman preach the same sections of scripture, I heard balance, gentle challenge and equalizing confession and assurance. It seems to me that we can be sure that life begins before death.

      Referring to the very good video: God bless the Denhollanders and those who asked questions. I especially liked the questions of the two husbands who were married to abuse survivors. God bless them! I really liked Jacob and Rachel’s response to them. Jacob called the action of the false authorities mishandling the abused cries for help, betrayal and downright wicked. And the Denhollander’s affirming their understanding that it was betrayal and an appropriate, understandable response of the victims would be to leave that place and take their time as they searched for another church, all the while keeping their love for Jesus.

      I also liked Jacob and Rachel’s specific direction of direct questions to ask (and examples of safe versus unsafe pastor/elder responses) to test and interview for a possible new church home.

  7. Kind of Anonymous

    Still thinking about this video. The part where the DenHollanders talk about triggers and how it can affect a relationship was esp. helpful. The question and answer period was helpful too esp. hearing Jacob demonstrate how a godly man responds to evil against someone else. I loved how the couple interacted together and how articulately they both spoke about all the nuances of the situation with the church, with trauma survivors, etc. Impressive.

    One thing I found myself wondering though, is related to relationships. I know its important to understand what’s happening to one’s spouse when triggers happen and provide support and love. But I wonder also how a couple dealing with one spouse being a survivor of trauma can have the other spouse be supportive and understanding and yet avoid the survivor’s trauma so dominating the relationship that the spouse trying to provide support winds up feeling as if they just exist to care for the survivor and yet somehow they take a back seat. It would be even tougher if both spouses have suffered trauma I imagine!

    I am thinking of the similar kind of thing that can happen in family with a special needs child. The needs of the special needs child can so dominate the life of the family that the other siblings can wind up feeling as if they are living on the sidelines and everything is fine as long as they can accept that it will almost never be about them because their siblings needs are so all encompassing and always take center stage.

    I kind of hoped that this might get talked about. I hope that I am not offending or insulting anyone by asking this, I know it’s a sensitive issue.

    • Hi Kind of Anonymous, I think the issue you raised is a good one. And personally I was not offended by it at all. 🙂

    • Artina

      Kind Of Anonymous, As I listened to the video I was thinking along those same lines. I didn’t hear any answers or acknowledgement of those scenarios in this video, but I’ve heard/read some theologians/Christian psychologists at least acknowledge how common childhood trauma is.

      I was not offended by your bringing this up. I felt appreciative as I watched and listened to the Denhollander’s and the Q and A and felt that it was worthy to send along to a few friends I thought might be interested.

    • Finding Answers

      Kind Of Anonymous “I kind of hoped that this might get talked about. I hope that I am not offending or insulting anyone by asking this, I know it’s a sensitive issue.”

      Personally, I REALLY appreciated your entire comment. Having watched this happen in other families with special needs children, I can picture in my mind the situation described by Kind Of Anonymous. (Omitting details for my protection.)

      For the moment, I feel I am the special needs child, sitting centre stage when I’d much rather be part of the chorus.

      For those who have followed the breadcrumbs of my story on the ACFJ blog, you may be aware that after over five decades, I have been awakened to the truth I am high-functioning Asperger’s, and I experience empathy through the Holy Spirit’s gift of healing.

      I have spent the last few days struggling to separate three major things: 1) The idiosyncrasies that come with a genetically sensitive nervous system, 2) the effects of complex PTSD resulting from over five decades of (sometimes extreme) abuse, and 3) the additional complexities coming from Asperger’s.

      In the process, I have been struggling to learn new forms of communication, since I cannot transmit the pictures in my mind, nor understand how what I communicate is understood by others unless that is communicated back to me.

      I CANNOT imagine what it would be like for a husband if I was married.

  8. James

    Just watching Rachael and Jacob relating to each other is a valuable lesson in love and respect.

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