18 years after being gang raped, Brenda Tracy faced her greatest shamer.

college rape survivor stories

“I remember not being able to move my arms and legs,” rape victim Brenda Tracy told the Oregonian in 2014.

“I was like a rag doll. They were picking me up and tossing me around the whole apartment.”

In 1998 when Tracy was just 24 years old she was gang raped by four football players from her home-state of Oregon.

The mother-of-two had decided to join a friend at a gathering happening at the apartment of an Oregon State University (OSU) football player. Amongst others at the same gathering were another OSU player, a high-school recruit and a community college player.

At some point during an evening of drinking and playing video games Tracy passed out, eventually waking up to find the high-school recruit on top of her.

college rape survivor stories

Brenda Tracy today. Source: Facebook

While two of the rapists received a one-game suspension - with their coach, Mike Riley, saying the men were "really good guys who made a bad choice" - it was the harshest punishment any of the four men would ever face.


"The attack lasted more than six hours and as I went in and out of consciousness the things that they did to me are now burned into my memory," the survivor went on to write.

"Like a piece of cattle I was branded, never to forget eight hands on me, inside me, their laughs as they high-fived each other in a congratulatory manner as they each took turns raping me. . . Never to forget the next morning when I awoke to the smell of dried vomit in my hair, the stickiness of a condom stuck to my stomach, the food crumbs that left indentations on my skin as I lay face down on the apartment floor like a piece of garbage that someone forgot to pick up."

college rape survivor stories

College rape survivor Brenda Tracy 18 years on. Source: Facebook

But earlier this week, 18 years on, Tracy made her way to the University of Nebraska to speak to the college football team about the effects rape can have on its survivors. In that room of people listening was Mike Riley.

Because nearly two decades after the nurse and assault advocate's life was changed forever, Riley invited Tracy to the school for the important student talk.

"At one point I hated this man more than my rapists," Tracy told the room full of students while pointing to Riley.

Is rape a male or female issue? Post continues after video...

The morning after the rape, Tracy's friend found her naked on the floor being covered by a blanket. After being returned home, Tracy decided that she would report what happened to the police before committing suicide.

"I'd made my mind up after talking to police that I was going to do the rape examination, then I was going to go kill myself," she said.

The nurse giving Tracy her exam, however, managed to convince her to keep fighting.

She reported the incident to the police and within days the media coverage was huge. Tracy was told the case would be hard for her to win and likely to come down to a "he says she says."

Combined with a huge amount of backlash from the football-loving community, Tracy dropped all charges against the men.

college rape survivor stories

Coach Mike Riley. Source: Facebook

It was at this point that Riley described two of the men involved as, "really good guys who made a bad choice."

"How could coach Riley say that?" Tracy later wrote. "Good guys? A bad choice? I couldn't understand. What was a bad choice? Was it a bad choice when his player was raping me or when that player was watching three other men rape me? A bad choice. . . a bad choice is staying up late when you have to be up early. A bad choice is drinking underage. A bad choice is speeding on the freeway and getting a ticket."

Because of this one seriously misguided comment, Riley continued to haunt Tracy years after the attack.

Staying silent for 16 years, it was only in 2014 that Tracy sought counselling for what had happened and decided to share her story with local publication, the Oregonian. 

But when contacted by the paper, Riley surprised everyone with his response.

He immediately admitted he could have been harsher on his players and that he should have done more at the time, and he asked the reporter if he thought Tracy might one day come and speak with the team to avoid another event like it ever occurring.

"That would be a compelling talk," Riley said to the reporter. "A real-life talk. Instead of just talking about rape and sexual assault, actually having someone talk about how things can change for everyone in a moment like that."

Through time and many tears, the talk is exactly what eventually came about.


college rape survivor stories

Tracy with Riley and the Nebraska team. Source: Facebook.

Upon meeting for the first time this week, Riley hugged Tracy, listening to everything that she had to say and apologised unreservedly.

"He said he just knew the players had been arrested and the charges were dropped," Tracy said of their conversation. "He knew he had to do something. He didn't consider the impact on my life. He didn't do any research into it. He said he didn't know any of the specifics. He said if he had known, he would have done something."

Importantly, Tracy says that she really believed Riley and what he was saying. Riley says that his understanding of sexual assault and its prevalence across college campuses in the US had changed in the 18 years since Tracy's assault.

Following their conversation, Tracy told the Journal Star, "I feel like he got it, the things I was saying to him, and the way he impacted me, I think he understood how much he impacted my life and how that decision hurt me. And I really feel like he would not do something like that again. I feel like he understands that lives are more valuable than win-loss record."

After explaining her feelings towards Riley to the Nebraska students Tracy said powerfully, "This is what accountability looks like. This is what transparency looks like. This is how we get things done."

She encouraged players to learn from Riley and appreciate having a coach like him in their young lives.

"It's OK to be accountable," she said to the players. "It's OK to say you're sorry."


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