Rape victim calls for Baylor to 'shut down football'
Brenda Tracy says she was raped by two Oregon State players 17 years ago, an experience that has her taking strong stances against sexual assault and Baylor
The outrage inside Brenda Tracy bubbles up regularly. Baylor has seen to that lately.
The 42-year-old single mother of two young adult sons was pacing around her suburban Portland apartment last week -- agitated -- after she heard the news.
Tracy has no direct connection to the Baylor scandal -- Art Briles being all but fired, blamed for enabling a culture of sexual assault that an independent report concluded had gone on for years.
She has no connection, yet she has every connection. Since the age of nine, Tracy says she has been raped by five different men. Two of them were Oregon State football players 17 years ago in Corvallis, Oregon. None has been brought to justice.
When the anger subsided last Thursday, Tracy came to a new realization.
"I live in this world," she concluded, "where Baylor is the norm."
You will be hearing a lot more about Tracy in the near future. Mark Emmert already has an email from her son, Darius, asking for the NCAA to take the lead on sexual assault at its colleges.
Her story, revealed in late 2014, is a sad, graphic reminder the Baylor scandal doesn't end at the entrance to Baylor. It bores into the minds of the assaulted who have to relive their own horrific details.
"I'll tell you what should happen and it will be highly controversial," Tracy said during a Monday phone interview.
Tracy says she was drugged and raped by four men at an off-campus party in Corvallis in 1998. The two Oregon State players involved were suspended for a game by then-coach Mike Riley and made to do community service.
Her rape kit along with mountains of evidence -- the players implicated each other -- was eventually destroyed, gone forever when the statute of limitations ran out.
Until a heroic piece of journalism by the Oregonian's John Canzano and incredible bravery by Tracy in November 2014, her story was hidden.
Now she wants her account used as a template for curing the scourge of sexual assault in college athletics. It starts with Baylor.
"I think they need to get rid of everybody and shut down the football program for one year. I think they need to start over [at Baylor]," Tracy said. "Otherwise, they're just trying to put a Band-Aid on it. What did we learn from Penn State?"
A death penalty or even something resembling the Penn State penalties in the Sandusky scandal appears unlikely. Baylor is already in the rebuilding stage. It has fired Briles, reassigned president Ken Starr and seen athletic director Ian McCaw resign (while on probation). Jim Grobe has been hired as acting coach.
Football will go on. Baylor is moving on. The lives of the afflicted are damaged forever. Tracy is a shining example.
"To me, rape is the attempted murder of your spirit and your soul. ...
I suffered, wanting to kill myself pretty much every day for 16 years and couldn't because I had children," she said. "I hated myself. I didn't want to be inside my own body. Nightmares. PTSD. Weight and eating [problems]. I was a broken person. I didn't want to be like that anymore."
That's before she emailed Canzano out of desperation. That's before Oregon State president Ed Ray saw the story and not only apologized to her face-to-face but hired her as a consultant.
(That's the same Ed Ray, it should be noted, who spearheaded the precedent-setting penalties against Penn State 2012 as a member of the NCAA's executive committee.)
That was before Tracy was told that at least some of her assailants are living comfortably somewhere in California. She suspects they continue to torment her, leaving comments at the bottom of stories currently being written about her.
"The person writing the comments ha[s] details that I know it's got to be one of them or a family member," Tracy said. "[They say] I've ruined their lives and hurt them.
"I always say, 'If you don't like your part in the story, you should have played a better part.'"
Tracy's story begins to explain a mystery of sexual assault -- some victims don't cooperate with law enforcement. At the time, she was confused, ashamed, hurt - in more ways than one. The nurse who oversaw Tracy's post-rape exam told the Oregonian it was "among the most disturbing sex-assault exams I've ever administered."
A flashlight was one of the pieces of evidence, according to the police report.
"That's the thing that frustrates me the most," she said. "I'll have commentators and trolls online and they'll say, 'Brenda get over it. That happened 17 years ago.'"
It took until six years ago for Tracy to even tell her oldest son what had happened. They sat in her car in the driveway with Tracy sobbing, 'I'm so sorry.'
She was already saddled with the memory of being assaulted by a family member between ages two and five. Tracy said a babysitter's boyfriend raped her when she was nine.
"I felt if I said anything he'd kill me," she said. "I didn't say anything."
Since the assault occurred off campus, Oregon State officials weren't prepared (back then) for how to go forward. Tracy says she got two death threats.
"Nothing has changed in 17 years since I was raped. Baylor is another example, and it's not the only school that is doing this," she said. "How do I change this culture?"
Tracy has found new purpose in life since unloading her story to a sports columnist. She has been responsible for five new laws combating sexual assault in the state of Oregon. One of them extends the statute of limitations from six to 12 years in sexual assault cases.
With her help, the Pac-12 was encouraged to adopt a transfer rule. The SEC voted in a similar version. No school can take a transfer with serious misconduct issues.
Next month, she will be at Nebraska to speak to Riley and his players. Riley had promised to meet her when her story emerged at Oregon State. Shortly thereafter, he left for Lincoln, Nebraska.
In this story of betrayal, a promise has been kept. But Tracy's biggest questions that day will be reserved for a quiet, private meeting with the coach. How much did Riley know about her assault when he gave those two players only a one-game suspension?
"It's me being able to face my demons," Tracy said. "This has been something that has plagued me for years. ... In a selfish way, I'm hoping this trip helps me heal."
So after a life of torment and pain, is there room for something close to forgiveness?
"Even if [Riley] did know and was complicit, such as the coach at Baylor," Tracy said, "sometimes what happens in the past is not as important as what is moving forward."
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