Brenda Tracy was gang-raped by four men in 1998, two of whom were Oregon State football players. Now Brenda Tracy advocates to change policy and law around sexual assault issues.
Her son, Darius Adams, a college athlete, recently started a petition asking the NCAA to ban violent athletes. More than 143,000 people around the country have supported it so far.
Together Brenda and Darius have been raising awareness about their campaign and the great role collegiate athletic programs should play in preventing violence and holding students responsible.
They took the time to speak with us about their campaign and Brenda's meeting with NCAA President Mark Emmert.
Kate: Brenda, you recently spoke with Mark Emmert. Can you share anything about your meeting with us, and are you hopeful that the NCAA is headed in the right direction?
Brenda: My phone call with President Emmert went really well. He complimented Darius and I on our work and he asked if I would be willing to meet with a few key staff members from the NCAA. That meeting will take place later this month. I'm hopeful that we will come to an agreement to propose legislation to the Board of Governors that would ban violent athletes.
Kate: Darius, why do you feel it’s important that the NCAA take a strong stand against violent athletes right now?
Darius: The NCAA has stood by silently as multiple schools have mishandled cases involving violent athletes. This has been going on for decades. Enough is enough. It's time for them to step in and use their power to protect people.
Kate: Brenda and Darius, what are concrete steps that you would like to see the NCAA take to ban violent athletes and better support sexual assault survivors?
Brenda and Darius: We believe that there needs to be a policy that specifically addresses recruits, transfers, and how to handle current student-athletes that engage in violent behavior. And this policy should be drafted and put before the Board of Governors this August for a vote.
Kate: If the NCAA does not take this action, what message do you think this will send to student-athletes?
Darius and Brenda: First and foremost, banning violent athletes is the right thing to do. Every student deserves to attend college free from the threat of rape and violence. This is a small rule change that could literally save lives.
By NOT taking this action the NCAA is sending the message that they DON'T care about survivors, students, or their own membership of student-athletes. They are also sending the message that money, reputation, and win-loss records are more important than human lives.
Kate: Darius, why do you think your petition is resonating with so many people from around the country?
Darius: I think it's because it's common sense. None of us want other people or their families to be hurt by sexual assault. Everyone wants their kids to be able to go to college and be safe.
Kate: Darius, you mention Baylor University in your petition. We’ve heard of sexual assaults being largely ignored by universities before, what was it about the sexual assault case in Baylor that sparked you to start this petition?
Darius: I think it was mostly my mom's reaction to Baylor. She was really upset about it and I could tell she was hurting. I just wanted to help her and I wanted to help other families so that they wouldn't have to go through what we've been through.
Kate: Brenda, as a sexual assault survivor, you have spoken publicly about your experience and have become an advocate for survivors everywhere. Can you speak more about your decision to go public as a survivor and what your transition to survivor advocate has been like?
Brenda: My decision to go public was one made out of necessity and probably a little desperation. I had been living a double life for 16 years. On the outside everything looked ok, but on the inside I was barely surviving. I just wanted to be happy and I wanted to be at peace with myself. I wanted to wake up one day and not think about killing myself. The day that my story ran online, for the entire world to see, was the day I stepped out of my prison of shame and silence. That was the day I became one person and that is the day I stopped wanting to die. That was the beginning of my journey to peace, love, and self-acceptance.
Kate: Darius, can you tell us more about why your Mom is your hero?
Darius: She's always been there for me. When no one else believed in me - she did. When everyone else gave up on me - she didn't. My mom has been through so much in her life, but you would never know it. She's the strongest person I know.
Kate: Darius and Brenda, what is your greatest hope for this petition?
Darius and Brenda: The obvious answer would be to place pressure on the NCAA to pass this important policy, but I think even more than that we want to raise awareness about this issue, inspire hope in others, and send the message to other survivors that you matter - what happened to you matters and 140,000 people support you!
Kate: Is there anything else that either of you would like to share that we haven’t touched upon in this interview?
Darius and Brenda: Thank you to every person who signed this petition! Over many years, thousands of women have been victimized by athletes, athletic departments, coaches, and universities. By signing this petition you are acknowledging the pain of these victims and their families. You are an agent of change and with your signature you have offered hope and healing to many! Thank you.
Darius has also started a fundraiser for his petition. His goal is to raise money to help with costs related to his campaign including a petition delivery, advertising, and travel.