LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A Louisville woman is credited with paving the way for at least 135 victims to come forward with sexual abuse allegations against a gymnastics doctor.
On Wednesday, Larry Nassar pleaded guilty in court to criminal charges of sexual conduct with children. He admitted to penetrating girls - ungloved - in medical exams, according to NBC News. Among the victims are Olympic gymnasts Gabby Douglas, Makayla Maroney and Aly Raisman.
"It is so disturbing what he did," Raisman said in an interview the The Today Show.
But the very first accuser is a Louisville woman who came forward to the Indianapolis Star in 2016. Her courage opened the floodgates for at least 135 more victims to come forward with their allegations against Nassar.
"You know, living in the memories of the abuse, having to speak about it so consistently has been a really painful process," Rachel Denhollander, 32, said. "But it's been worth it."
Denhollander sat down with WAVE 3 News the very same day her accuser admitted guilt.
"It's a big sense of relief, it's a big sense of closure," she said. "There's a sense of justice. Having him have to admit what he did was a really important step."
At the time of the alleged abuse, Denhollander was a 15-year-old gymnast in Michigan. Nassar was the team's coach.
"There was a specific moment on the last visit when he went up my shirt," Denhollander said. "I knew that was sexual assault. The rest of it, I really didn't."
For years, she researched and met with pelvic floor specialists trying to find out Nassar's supposed medical treatment, ultimately learning it wasn't legitimate.
Denhollander and other victims are suing Michigan State University - where Nassar worked - and United States of America Gymnastics. Denhollander said the institutions played a role in allowing Nassar to get away with continued abuse.
"I can do everything in my power to stop Larry," Denhollander said. "But if the institutional dynamics don't change, every little girl who walks onto that campus is every bit still as much at risk."
The mother of three said she plans to continue fighting for justice and giving a voice to those who are victims of sexual abuse.
"There's great hope for all of us for healing," she said. "There is life after abuse but the damage is always there. It's something we'll live with for the rest of our lives."