The survivor of an alleged 1998 rape met the man Wednesday whom she felt then had protected her attackers, and Brenda Tracy said she left Lincoln, Nebraska, with an advocate for her cause in football coach Mike Riley.
"I don't feel like there's any type of unfinished business between me and coach Riley at all," Tracy said Thursday as she returned to Oregon after speaking with Riley for 90 minutes and addressing his football team. "I feel like he is a friend and an ally now."
Tracy, 42, of Tualatin, Oregon, told her story to the Oregonian newspaper in 2014. She said she was raped by four men, including two Oregon State football players, 18 years ago on the OSU campus. The men were arrested, but Tracy did not press charges. Riley suspended the players involved for one game.
For years, Tracy said she had harbored hatred toward Riley, who coached at Oregon State for 14 seasons. Two years ago, he asked her to speak to his team, an invitation that remained after Riley took the job at Nebraska in December 2014.
Her moment arrived Wednesday.
"I told them my story in very graphic detail," Tracy said. "A few of them, you could see the disgust on their faces. I was very honest with them. And then I talked to them about what accountability looks like -- and my interaction with coach Riley.
"We talked about consent. We talked about what they can do. We need to get men involved. They have responsibility and so much influence, not only on their campus but on the entire state of Nebraska."
Before meeting the team, Tracy sat down with Riley and Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst. Upon meeting the coach for the first time, Tracy said, she broke down in tears.
"He stood up and we both walked to each other," she said. "He hugged me, and I just kind of cried on his shoulder for a second. We sat down and talked for an hour and a half. It was really kind of surreal."
Tracy said she sensed compassion from the 62-year-old coach.
"At some point, I knew I would cry," she said, "but I didn't know that I would cry in a way that it was relief. And I didn't know if he would feel like he had to talk to me or if he would be uncomfortable with me. But he wasn't.
"He genuinely had this attitude and this air about him, even his body posture, it was just like, 'Tell me what you need me to know. I want to hear what you have to say.' That really meant so much to me. He genuinely cared."
Meeting with the Cornhuskers went equally as well, Tracy said.
"It was a little overwhelming," she said. "But I told my story. They were all very attentive. Nobody was on their phones. At the end, a couple of them asked me questions. Coach Riley said that almost never happens with a speaker. I thought that was really amazing."
Tracy, since 2014, has worked to enact legislation to promote prevention of sexual assault. A registered nurse, she was hired to work in the area by Oregon State last year and lobbied the Pac-12 to enact a rule this year to ban transfer students with a history of violent crime.
On Thursday, as Tracy landed at a stopover in Denver en route back to Oregon, Riley called to check on her and thanked Tracy for the visit. He told her that Nebraska planned to organize sexual-assault awareness-raising events during the 2016 football season.
Tracy said she would like to speak again to college football teams.
"I think that every university should bring a survivor to speak to their team," she said. "We have a unique viewpoint and a lot to offer on this problem. Who knows better how to fix this than someone who has been through it?"