Brenda Tracy stood confidently in front of the room, looking at the crowd of UNCG student-athletes sitting in front of her.
“I am a nurse, I am a single mother and I am a survivor of rape here to tell my story,” said Tracy in a hushed but matter-of-fact tone.
In 1998, Tracy was drugged and gang-raped by four men, two of which played college football at Oregon State University. The four men ended up being arrested but the charges were dropped after her district attorney told her she had no case and that it would take years to prosecute with four separate trials. With only blame from the community she lived in, while mothering her three and four year old sons at the time, she decided to try to forget about what happened to her but the memories stayed. Tracy battled thoughts of suicide and depression for years until she decided to stop hiding her story and made it public in 2014. Oregonian columnist John Canzano met Tracy for coffee after she vented to him through an email that she didn’t expect a reply to. In a detailed and heartbreaking manner, Tracy recounted her story to Canzano, and he published the sad truth about how her rape became a secret in the realm of college athletics and how the football players walked away with only a one game suspension as punishment.
Since having her story told again, this time with much support from peers and other victims, Tracy decided to continue on this path of sharing her truth. In the past 18 months, she has traveled to more than 50 schools, sharing her gruesome account and encouraging student athletes to #SetTheExpectation, the motto she created to help end sexual abuse.
“My rape happened almost twenty years ago, and today, not much has changed. So what can we do about it? We can begin to educate our men and boys about consent and healthy relationships. We have to start setting the expectations with our athletes that sexual assault and physical violence are not okay,” said Tracy.
Tracy specifically conveyed a message to the coaches of all sports teams and called on them to set the expectation with their players. She created a pledge for coaches and athletes to sign in order to commit to being leaders and changing the culture of violence in their communities.
“What an incredible woman. It’s inspiring that she’s looking to do good for all people. As a coach, she told us that it’s our job to set the expectation. Other things we can get involved in either individually or in groups can deal with posting on social media or attending local awareness events to to show that we support this and want to be a strong link,” said Michael Coll, Head Coach of UNCG Women’s Soccer.
Now, Tracy works on the NCAA Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence, a group created in 2016 by the NCAA Board of Governors. The group works towards examining issues and proposing solutions for athletic departments, conferences and other groups in order to respond to sexual violence and achieve a positive cultural change in communities across the United States.
“My role is to make sure that no one ever forgets about the survivors. My role is to show them that we are real people with real strength and real pain,” said Tracy.