Set the Expectation: Survivor-activist Brenda Tracy leads program on sexual assault

Brenda Tracy shares her story of being a sexual assault survivor Tuesday, Nov. 7 in a Lawrence University presentation-discussion. The event, “Set the Expectation,” at 5 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center, is only open to members of the Lawrence community.

Following her talk, Tracy will facilitate a group discussion on sexual assault.

Brenda Tracy
Brenda Tracy

Tracy was 24, a single mother of two boys working as a waitress in the small Oregon town of Keizer, a suburb of the state capital, Salem, in June, 1998. On a trip to Corvallis with her best friend to visit the friend’s boyfriend and others, Tracy wound up being gang raped by four men, including two members of the Oregon State University football team, during what she told police was a seven-hour ordeal.

The four men were arrested and booked into jail, but were never charged with a crime. The district attorney had a solid case, but needed Tracy’s cooperation to get a conviction. For a variety of reasons, she wavered.

In a 2014 interview with The Oregonian newspaper — the first time she had ever been publicly identified as the victim — Tracy spoke about having been sexually abused as a minor, up until age five by a family member, and again by a neighbor when she was nine. Following the incident in Corvallis, she felt she was a victim, on her own again, and wasn’t strong enough to deal with any of it.

“What happened to me was not my choice,” Tracy told the paper. “What they did to me was not my choice. They violated me. I was garbage to them. 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. I was going to commit suicide. I was already dead.”

Instead, she found the strength to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing and later an MBA. Today she shares her story as an activist-survivor nationally, works as a registered nurse in Portland, Ore., and serves as a consultant for Oregon State University.

“In recent months sexual violence has received extra attention through social media campaigns,” said junior Elias Hubbard, secretary of the student organization MARS (Men Against Rape and Sexism), which is hosting the event. “While this is a great step forward in recognizing the extent it proliferates our society, we need to do more. Men need to do more. Brenda Tracy’s message is one of inclusion and has proven effective at bringing men into the struggle to end sexual violence.”

In conjunction with MARS, which considers the roots of sexual assault and works toward a goal of prevention, Tracy’s visit is supported by Fox Valley Voices of Men, the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, Reach Counseling, Harbor House and Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services Inc., with funding provided by the Community Health Action Team (CHAT) of ThedaCare and the the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Inc.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.