Rape sur­vivor Brenda Tracy ad­dresses play­ers, coaches, ad­min­is­tra­tors.

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kyle Fredrick­son

BOUL­DER» More than 100 sets of eyes are star­ing back at Brenda Tracy. It’s silent. Uncomfortable. But this is where she wants to be: stand­ing be­fore the Univer­sity of Colorado foot­ball team, its coaches, staff and ad­min­is­tra­tors to re­count the worst night of her life.

Play­ers shift in their seats with each graphic de­tail. How she drifted in and out of con­scious­ness. How she said no, and how they wouldn’t stop. It’s one thing to learn about the im­pact of sex­ual vi­o­lence in a study. It’s en­tirely an­other hear­ing it straight from the vic­tim.

“It kind of set­tles in their heart,” said Tracy, who since 2015 has vis­ited more than 30 cam­puses across the coun­try, each time re­open­ing wounds to be­gin a di­a­logue in ath­letic de­part­ments and locker rooms in hopes of chang­ing a cul­ture that has scarred col­lege sports — at a time when CU must do soul search­ing on the is­sue.

The re­sults of a June ex­ter­nal probe into CU’S han­dling of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ac­cu­sa­tions against for­mer as­sis­tant foot­ball coach Joe Tump­kin yielded at 10-day sus­pen­sion for CU chan­cel­lor Phil Dis­te­fano, while coach Mike Mac­in­tyre and ath­letic di­rec­tor Rick Ge­orge were both rep­ri­manded and or­dered to do­nate $100,000 to­ward ad­vo­cacy groups and care for vic­tims.

Ge­orge re­leased a state­ment that called for “ne­c­es­sary changes” at CU to “sup­port a cul­ture of val­ues and re­spect and in­tegrity. We must do bet­ter — and we will.” In his of­fice re­cently dur­ing a sit-down in­ter­view with The Den­ver Post, Ge­orge was adamant those dis­cus­sions are tak­ing place, thanks in large part to the wo­man bear­ing her soul at the front of the room.

“She didn’t ever look at a note,” Ge­orge said. “She just talked from the heart.”

It’s not Tracy’s place to ad­dress spe­cific cases of sex­ual vi­o­lence when she speaks on col­lege cam­puses, other than her own, be­cause Tracy’s mes­sage is univer­sal. The de­scrip­tion of her al­leged gang rape by four men in 1998, in­clud­ing two for­mer Ore­gon State foot­ball play­ers, is dis­gust­ing, painful and dark­ened by lack of jus­tice. Her words lifted ten­sion only when the fi­nal point be­came clear.

“I’m not here be­cause I think you’re the prob­lem,” Tracy said. “I’m here be­cause I think you’re the so­lu­tion.”

CU se­nior line­backer Derek Mccart­ney and se­nior run­ning back Phillip Lind­say clung to ev­ery word.

“It was just crazy to hear what she went through,” Mccart­ney said.

Said Lind­say: “That wo­man is pow­er­ful.”

How­ever, Tracy’s im­pact wasn’t lim­ited to the Buffs’ foot­ball team. That was the orig­i­nal plan when as­so­ciate ath­letic di­rec­tor Lance Carl first con­tacted her a few months back, but upon deeper re­flec­tion, CU opened its doors com­pletely. Tracy also vis­ited with the chan­cel­lor and his cab­i­net, Ti­tle XI com­pli­ance staff, mem­bers of the women’s bas­ket­ball pro­gram and oth­ers. Dif­fer­ent de­mo­graph­ics re­quired dif­fer­ent mes­sages.

“For me, this is re­ally about, how do we shift a cul­ture within ath­let­ics,” Tracy said, “and how do we use ath­let­ics to shift that cul­ture that’s going on cam­puses na­tion­wide?”

Ac­cord­ing to data pro­vided by the Na­tional Sex­ual Vi­o­lence Re­source Cen­ter (NSVRC), one in five women will be sex­u­ally as­saulted in col­lege. Tracy es­ti­mates only 10 per­cent of men are ca­pa­ble of com­mit­ting such hor­ren­dous crimes, leav­ing the rest in charge to pro­mote aware­ness and a com­mit­ment to in­ter­vene and/or re­port po­ten­tial in­stances of sex­ual vi­o­lence on cam­pus.

“You start to vi­su­al­ize your sis­ter, your mother,” Lind­say said. “I could never think about that hap­pen­ing to them. … (Tracy) is an in­spi­ra­tion to all of us. I can’t wait to do my part to help out and be the 90 per­cent of men.”

For the women, es­pe­cially mem­bers of the Buffs’ bas­ket­ball team, an­other el­e­ment was ad­dressed. Ac­cord­ing to the NSVRC, more than 90 per­cent sex­ual as­sault vic­tims on col­lege cam­puses do not re­port the as­sault to au­thor­i­ties.

“The point that she drove home with us was, ‘Whether you took that drink, whether you were in a volatile sit­u­a­tion, at the end of the day, if you said no or if you weren’t con­firm­ing that, it is not your fault,’ ” said Jill Ma­honey, CU women’s bas­ket­ball di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions. “She con­veyed to the girls that they are beau­ti­ful, pow­er­ful women, and you’re strong enough that if some­thing like this hap­pens to you, you’ve got a sup­port sys­tem.”

Tracy left CU op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture in Boul­der, even as just days af­ter her visit, a sopho­more cor­ner­back, An­thony Jul­misse, was ar­rested fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions he at­tempted to push a wo­man down a stair­well. He was sus­pended in­def­i­nitely and his con­duct was re­ported to CU’S of­fice of in­sti­tu­tional eq­uity and com­pli­ance — a missed step by univer­sity lead­er­ship in the han­dling of al­le­ga­tions against Tump­kin.

“I think prob­a­bly ev­ery school I go to, there is ei­ther an ac­tive is­sue going on, there’s been an is­sue going on, or they’re going to have an is­sue af­ter I leave,” Tracy said. “This is some­thing that is re­ally preva­lent through­out ev­ery cam­pus.”

But now that CU has opened a di­a­logue on the sub­ject, what lies ahead?

As a mem­ber of the NCAA Com­mis­sion to Com­bat Sex­ual Vi­o­lence, Tracy has lob­bied ath­letic di­rec­tors and univer­sity pres­i­dents from ev­ery power five con­fer­ence to adopt a pol­icy sim­i­lar to that of In­di­ana’s, ban­ning “any prospec­tive stu­den­tath­lete — whether a trans­fer stu­dent, in­com­ing fresh­man or other sta­tus — who has been con­victed of or pleaded guilty or no con­test to a felony in­volv­ing sex­ual vi­o­lence.”

It is yet to be seen whether CU will fol­low suit with a sim­i­lar ap­proach, but Ge­orge told The Den­ver Post: “We want to be a leader in this space. We learned a lot from (Tracy).”

Said Mac­in­tyre: “I thought she touched ev­ery­body in the room in some form or fash­ion.”

But rid­ding col­lege cam­puses of sex­ual vi­o­lence will take more than leg­is­la­tion.

Ac­tions speak louder than words.

“I’m re­ally proud to wear the CU logo, and that runs deep,” Ma­honey said. “What I’d like to see is that if foot­ball play­ers are at the same gath­er­ing as a women’s bas­ket­ball player, and he sees her in trou­ble, for him pull her out of it. I want them to be­come this force kind of like, ‘Not in our house.’

“It starts with some­one like Brenda Tracy.”

Pro­vided by CU ath­letic de­part­ment

Rape sur­vivor and so­cial ac­tivist Brenda Tracy, cen­ter, vis­its with the CU foot­ball team, coaches, staffers and ad­min­is­tra­tors in Boul­der. She was there to re­count the worst night of her life.

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