Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, July 01, 2016

Misunderstanding Resolved?

"At one point, I hated this man more than my rapists."
"You could literally see the whole room turn and look at Coach Riley. It was intense. I saw them all look. I could feel it."
"Two weeks after reporting the attack and enduring a severe backlash and death threats from a community that should have helped me and protected me -- I dropped the charges."
"How could coach Riley say that? ['These are really good guys who made a bad choice.'] Good guys? A bad choice? I couldn't understand. What was a bad choice? Was it a bad choice when his player was raping me or when that player was watching thee other men rape me?"
"A bad choice ... a bad choice is staying up late when you have to be up early. A bad choice is drinking underage. A bad choice is speeding on the freeway and getting a ticket."
"I despised that man. I hated him with every cell in my body."
Brenda Tracy, Nurse, advocate for sexual assault survivors, Oregon
(Photo courtesy Brenda Tracy)

Brenda Tracy recounts her memory, emotions and despondency of two decades earlier. At age 24, then a single mother of two young children, she worked as a waitress and one June night at a friend's invitation she joined her friend at a small gathering where an Oregon State University defensive back lived in an apartment. Everyone drank gin and orange juice and played video games. Brenda Tracy passed out at some point only to wake and realize she was being raped by four men.

Mike Riley happened to be head coach at Oregon State University, where coincidentally Brenda Tracy was also a student. After the rape, she had descended into a period of despondency and despair with thoughts of suicide tormenting her. The four football players had been arrested and each of them blamed the other. As head coach Mike Riley suspended two of his players who had been involved in the rape, for a single game.

But when Brenda Tracy understood two of her rapists were being punished to such a slight degree as to miss one game, and hearing them defended by the coach who spoke of 'bad choices', she felt diminished and she felt scarred by the trauma and by how lightly her torment was being taken. That made her decide she would withdraw her charges, and no trial would go forward; she was not prepared to suffer a prolongation of her agony in court.

Fast forward twenty years and everyone is quite a bit older. A newspaper revisited the story in 2014 and interviewed coach Riley. He was faced with a dilemma under the circumstances of the accusations where justice was never realized in the rape of the woman. In retrospect, he said, he should have reacted more forcefully with the players, to impose on them a penalty more reflective of their criminal act.

And then he thought of reaching out to the woman whom his players had raped and whom he had himself failed through his position of authority. They met. They spoke together. He commiserated with her. "I said everything I needed to say. I asked everything I needed to ask. We talked about one thousand different topics. I feel like I put everyone on the table and left it all there. He answered everything", she said later. And she accepted his apology for not taking the trouble to fully understand what she had suffered as a result of a heinous criminal act.

And then, because she had been invited to do just that, she spoke to the University of Nebraska football team, a message of 'inspiration' unlike any other they might hear. She described for them the ordeal she had suffered, and the aftermath, and how long it had taken her to eventually resume what might be construed as a normal life, leaving the pain of the memory behind. And she spoke of her anger with their coach, how she detested his part in that dreadful time of her life.

The one hundred fifty men present looked from her to the coach, then returned their gaze to the emotional speaker. "This is what accountability looks like. This is what transparency looks like. This is how we get things done", she said, ending her talk. Emphasizing that the players should be prepared to appreciate a coach like Mike Riley. "It's OK to be accountable. It's OK to say you're sorry", she told them.

All very nice, a healing of pain for the woman who was raped, knowing the regret felt long after the fact by the man whose reaction had it been different, might have held those who had raped her accountable for their criminal act. And by her acquiescence, allowing the man who had treated the harm done to her so cavalierly, the gift of relief that his grievous oversight was forgiven. What, however, was the takeaway lesson for the young men listening?

That if they themselves were careless enough of their responsibilities to fail to behave in an adult and respectful manner to women, everything would turn out all right in the end, as long as they regretted that lapse, and no harm done? Are we missing something here? Here's hoping that the graphic description that Brenda Tracy used to ensure her listeners fully understood the psychological and physical trauma imposed upon her penetrated their consciousness adequately.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

()() Follow @rheytah Tweet