He looked up at me and smiled and in a loud voice said, "Hi Brenda!" It was like I was a best friend that he hadn't seen for a very long time.
I immediately began to cry. We walked towards each other and without any sign of awkwardness, we hugged. And for a second, I laid my head on his shoulder and cried.
It was a genuine human moment between two people. And it is one that I will never forget.
For the first time since 1998, today I met with former Oregon State, now Nebraska, head football coach Mike Riley.
I talked to Coach Riley for an hour and a half.
I said everything that I wanted to say, and I asked every question that I wanted to ask. I didn't leave any stone unturned. We talked about many things during that meeting and I paid attention to Coach Riley's every word, every body movement, and every facial expression.
And what I came away with was that this man genuinely cared about me. He was full of compassion and empathy for what I had gone through, and he fully recognized the impact that his words and actions had on my life.
For years, I had been trying to convince myself that I mattered, that my story mattered. And, in that moment sitting across from Coach Riley,
I knew that I mattered.
If you don't already know my story, then you should know at that moment it was one of forgiveness. After many years of hate, I simply did not want to be angry anymore.
In 1998, I was gang raped by four men. Two of them were Oregon State football players.
WHO I AM.
I believe we are all survivors of something.
I believe it is the strength and resilience of the human spirit that
connects all of us.
If you are alive and breathing – if you haven’t given up on life – then you are winning,
You are a champion.
You are a warrior.
You are a Survivor!
I believe lessons of love, compassion, empathy, and forgiveness are always around us. And you must keep your mind and heart open to the possibilities.
It was a Nurse who
saved me from suicide
She was my guardian angel.
And now, as a nurse myself, I hope to impact my
patients the same way.
It has taken many
years to find my voice.
I have learned that
your voice is my voice, and mine yours. I see you, I hear you – and you matter.
My two sons are my
heart and my life.
When I wanted to die,
I thought of them.
Together we are
changing today's world.
We must question the status-quo. We must challenge old beliefs and make way for new ones.
We must always fight for equality and justice
When I’m in the Capital,
I get an overwhelming sense that this is where people get together and real – profound – change can happen.
In 2014, Portland sports columnist John Canzano published a series of articles in The Oregonian, detailing all aspects of my 1998 gang rape. Back then, the evidence in my case was destroyed before the statute of limitations had expired. In turn, no criminal charges were ever filed. The "system," as it were, failed me. What's more, the process failed ... on all levels.
Sixteen years later, John Canzano shined a spotlight on my story.
In January of 2016, the National Women's Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation awarded John the 2016 Jane Valez-Mitchell Journalism Award. Thanks to John, my story is making a difference in the lives of other victims. Thank you, John!
By John Canzano | The Oregonian / OregonLive
Her name is Brenda Tracy.
We met downtown over coffee on a weekday morning a couple months ago. And I was struck that nobody in the passing parade of briefcases, lattes and workday stares appeared to notice the 40-year-old as she adjusted her ponytail, wiped the tears and unloaded a story that she's carried like a bag of bricks for years.
"I'd decided I was going to kill myself," she said.