Sports Spectrum Weekly

Former Olympic volleyball player Danielle Scott finds refuge in God after domestic violence tragedy

When Danielle Scott looks down at her hands, it’s hard to ignore the scars from that fateful day. It’s hard to look past the trauma to a time when those hands were blocking shots, spiking balls and helping direct the USA Volleyball team to two silver medals in her five trips to the Olympics.

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Once a towering presence as a 6-foot-3 middle blocker, now Danielle, 46, is in the process of re-learning to use those hands which once packed such power. The emotional scars of that autumn evening may be just as deep as the physical ones. But by God’s grace, Danielle is healing — slowly — inside and out.

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It was November 18 in Danielle’s hometown of Baton Rouge, La., and she and her family hadn’t heard from her older sister, Stefanie Vallery, all day. It was odd. Usually Stefanie could be counted on to send out at least one encouraging verse from Scripture every day. So Danielle, Vallery’s daughter Natalie Scott Richardson, and her niece also named Danielle Scott headed over to Stefanie’s house.

They expected to see Stefanie’s welcoming face, but her estranged husband, Michael Vallery Jr., opened the door.

An altercation ensued before Michael left and Stefanie opened up about the extreme physical abuse she faced earlier that day. Before the family knew it, Michael had forced his way back inside and brandished a knife to attack Stefanie.

Instead of cowering in terror, Danielle moved to shield her sister. But it wasn’t enough. Stefanie was pronounced dead on the scene.

Danielle was rushed to the hospital herself with wounds to both of her palms and her left thigh, knee and lower leg. Her niece also had minor injuries.

“My auntie is a very, very brave woman,” Natalie Richardson recently told USA Today. “I think she did everything within her power to try to help my mom as best as she could in the moment.”

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For six weeks after the attack, Danielle couldn’t use her hands or her leg. She couldn’t care for herself or her now-9-year-old daughter, Juliánne, like she used to. She had to make her way around in a modified walker, trying to come to terms with her own injuries all while grieving the loss of her sister. Michael wasn’t found for more than a month after the attack, and then was briefly released again due to a court clerical error, which only added to her anxiety.

The support from her loving family has helped to ease Danielle’s burden, as have the countless friends she made as an indoor volleyball player at Long Beach State and then as a member of Team USA for 19 years. Danielle’s longtime friend from Long Beach State, Aretha Arzu, flew down from New York to support Danielle. Tayyiba Haneef-Park, Danielle’s USA Volleyball teammate, even began a GoFundMe page.

Still, Danielle could have buckled under the pressure of her circumstances. She didn’t, thanks to the power of Christ.

She and Juliánne have prayed for Michael in the months since the attack, asking God to give them the strength to forgive. Danielle’s social media pages are peppered with references to the Bible and God’s sustaining power and grace. In the days after the attack, Danielle tweeted a picture of her and her sister with a reference to the Psalms that speaks of God’s perfect love and faithfulness:

“You have to have the will to want something positive to come out of maybe not-so-positive situations,” Danielle told USA Today. “Have faith. Have a hope. And live life. Just live life.”

And that’s just what she’s doing, only now she has a renewed purpose. Danielle was a 2016 inductee into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame, and now she wants to use her platform as a well-known volleyball player to raise awareness about the all-too-prevalent issue of domestic violence. She certainly has quite a story to tell.

Danielle knows life will never be like it was before Nov. 18, 2018, but God is still at work. Danielle and her family are safe from Michael Vallery, who is in custody and has been charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. Recently, Danielle has begun jumping with her left leg in therapy. Her hands are still stiff and swell at times, but she has resumed her piano classes with Juliánne.

The scars in Jesus’ hands were the marks of deep pain that God used to bring about the greatest good in the history of humanity: the salvation of His people. Danielle is realizing that only God can turn her own scarred hands into a beautiful symbol of His healing power and unchanging love.

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