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'I feel like I gained a friend, an ally': Brenda Tracy meets with former OSU coach

Brenda Tracy speaks with KATU News on June 23 (KATU News photo).png

PORTLAND, Ore. -- She is a rape survivor who spent years despising the person who protected those who hurt her.

Brenda Tracy was raped by two Oregon State football players and two other men in 1998, while Mike Riley was the head coach of the Beavers.

The men Tracy accused were arrested but never charged, and Riley suspended the two players for one game - a penalty Tracy has said trivialized the seriousness of the matter.

"He said these were really good guys who made a bad choice," Tracy said.

This week, Riley invited Tracy to speak with him and his new football team at the University of Nebraska this week, to discuss her experience.

"[I talked about] all the struggles that I went through, with PTSD and depression, and not being able to kill myself because I had my sons to take care of. And how that feels to exist in a world when you don't want to be there," she said.

Tracy said meeting with Riley was life-changing.

"He had this big grin on his face and he said, 'Brenda!' And I immediately started crying," Tracy recalls from their meeting on Wednesday. "I walked up to him and he walked up to me and I gave him a hug and I just cried on his shoulder for a second then we sat and talk for an hour and a half."

She said the team was overwhelmingly supportive, and thankful she came.

"I guess I really needed to know that [Riley] cared," Tracy said, not able to hold back the tears.

It is all part of her quest to change the college campus rape culture, especially when it comes to athletes receiving special protection.

"I hope that coaches especially are the ones who will take heed of this example, and they will be the ones to start reaching out to victims and just be accountable, like Coach Riley was," she said.

Tracy said she can't help but smile thinking about the man she used to hate, but now admires.

"I left everything there. I don't feel like I have any loose ends or unfinished business at all, I feel like I gained a friend, and an ally," Tracy said of Riley.

As KATU reporter earlier in June, Tracy and her son Darius are petitioning the NCAA to ban violent athletes. They have not heard back, nor has KATU.

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