In 1998, Brenda Tracy reported to the police that she was sexually assaulted — gang-raped — by four men, two of them Oregon State football players. More than 16 years after the ordeal, Tracy is speaking out and working to change Oregon laws dealing with campus sexual assault.
The University of Oregon Intercollegiate Athletics Committee is sponsoring a talk by Tracy on Thursday, May 14.
Tracy says the incident at an apartment in Corvallis lasted about seven hours, and she was in and out of consciousness. In the aftermath, she was suicidal. She agreed to get a rape kit done at the hospital but had resolved to kill herself afterward. However, the compassionate interaction she had with the emergency room nurse who examined and treated her changed Tracy’s mind: “I asked God over and over why I am here if only to be raped and beaten? He told me to be a nurse.”
Tracy, who is now a nurse, later dropped the charges against the men — she tells EW she was a mother of two young children, fragile, suicidal and dealing with death threats from people reacting to the allegations, and the district attorney told her it would be a “he-said, she-said case.”
Tracy says, “I was not told they confessed. I was lied to.” She says her rape kit was destroyed almost four years before the statute of limitations on the case ran out, and the audio tape of the players’ confessions was destroyed when OSU played in the Fiesta Bowl in 2001.
Although Tracy was not a student, the players were, so she later turned to OSU “wanting to have some sort of justice” and because “I wanted to make sure no one else was hurt by them.”
She said she left her meeting with OSU “thinking they were going to do something.” Instead the players got a one-game suspension and community service hours. She says other players were suspended that same game for a bar fight.
“Gang rape was equated to a bar fight,” Tracy says. She then “retreated to a life of shame and pretended it never happened.”
In November 2014, she went to The Oregonian and told her story to sports writer John Canzano. Since then OSU has apologized to Tracy, and she has begun to speak out and take action against campus rape.
“It’s sad to me because this is still happening today,” Tracy says, adding that schools worry more about their reputations and donors than they do about victims. She says there needs to be a shift that brings the issue out into the open.
Tracy is working to pass several bills dealing with campus sexual assault in the Oregon Legislature this session: HB 3476 would protect the confidentiality of conversations between sexual-assault survivors and their advocates. SB 759 would require that universities provide easy-to-read, written information to sexual assault victims regarding their rights.
Finally, HB 2317 would also affect non-campus related sexual assault as it seeks to extend the statute of limitations to prosecute rape from six to 12 years.
Brenda Tracy speaks at 3:30 pm Thursday, May 14, in Room 142 of the UO Knight Law Center, 1515 Agate St.