A woman who survived a brutal gang rape stood face to face with the man she hated most after the attack.
The man wasn’t one of her attackers, but their coach, and this week she bravely confronted the past.
In 1998, when then 24-year-old Brenda Tracy was raped by four men – two of whom played football for Oregon State University, she told the team coach, Mike Riley, who suspended the two men for one game, the Washington Post reported.
The charges were dropped, because Tracy was in fear due to the death threats she was getting from the community.
Coach Riley kept the suspension in place and called the two players “really good guys who made a bad choice.”
Those words, she said, made her enraged with the coach.
But now, years later, Riley invited her to speak to his new team at the University of Nebraska.
It was tough for Tracy to do because she still harbored so much anger towards Riley, but she decided the benefits of her speech were too important not to go, according to the Post.
— Brenda Tracy (@brendatracy24) June 23, 2016
When the Oregonian newspaper contacted Riley in 2014 his tune had changed and he seemed genuinely contrite.
“I felt I needed to do something there to send a message,” he told the paper. Of the one game suspension he gave his players, he said “Maybe I should have done more.”
Then he asked the reporter, John Canzano, if he thought Tracy would come and give a talk to his team.
“That would be a compelling talk,” Riley told Canzano. “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.”
The meeting between Tracy and Riley, and the subsequent speech, would take place in June.
“This is a coach who victimized me,” Tracy told Canzano. “and now I’m going to stand in front of his football team and tell them how I felt.”
When the two finally met this week the healing process began between them.
“He hugged me,” she told the Omaha World-Herald. “He allowed me to cry on his shoulder for a few minutes.”
“He answered everything,” she continued. Tracey said the coach even apologized.
“He said he just knew the players had been arrested and the charges were dropped,” Tracy told the World-Herald. “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.
“I do believe Coach Riley. I did not feel any deception coming from him. He said if he had known, he would have done something. That that would not happen today.”
When she gave her speech she praised Riley.
“At one point I hated this man more than my rapists,” she told the players who all turned to look at the coach.
“This is real accountability, real transparency,” she recalled telling the players, when she spoke to the World-Herald. “I told them, you should appreciate what kind of coach you have. It’s OK to be accountable. It’s OK to say you’re sorry.”
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