Darius Adams on his mom, 2016 IMPACT25 honoree Brenda Tracy

Darius Adams
Adams, the son of Brenda Tracy, is a proud Oregonian, athlete and advocate for victims of sexual assault.

I was born to my mom Brenda Tracy when she was 18. My mom and dad got married, but they divorced a few years later due to my dad's alcohol and drug use. My dad spent most of my life in prison and my mom was left to take care of my brother and me.

When I think back on being a child, what I remember most is being angry. At age 9 I tried to kill myself and I was placed into residential care, but no amount of counseling or medications made the anger go away. I dropped out of high school my sophomore year and started self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. I remember hating my mom, but not really knowing why. For whatever reason, my mom always tried to help me. When no one else cared, including myself, she did. She tried her best with me, but I didn't make it easy.

When I was 17, it became clear to me and my mom that my life was headed in the direction of death, or prison. I didn't care. At the time, death and/or prison were the same thing. None of it mattered to me, but it did to my mom. In what I know now was a moment of desperation, my mom revealed her deepest secrets to me. She told me about the abuse she suffered with my father and she told me that she was drugged and gang-raped by four football players right after she left my father. I remember her crying and asking me not to hate her or be ashamed of her. She apologized repeatedly to me for something she was not to blame for.

It's difficult to describe, but in that moment, sitting in the car with my mom, everything changed. Suddenly, I looked at her as someone who was just trying to survive and do the best she could. I didn't feel this hateful anger toward her anymore and I didn't feel as much anger for myself, either. It wasn't a perfect journey, but I began to turn my life around. I went from being a high school dropout and being told I would never graduate to making the varsity basketball team in high school and graduating and going on to college to play on a juco basketball team.

In 2014, my mom went public with her story and over the last two years I have had the privilege of watching her walk in God's purpose. She used to tell me, "Darius, with God, all things are possible. Not just the things you think are possible, but ALL things." She used to reassure me that anything meant for my harm, God could turn for my good and that it didn't matter what mistakes I had made, that God had a good plan for me. Over and over she would say, "Many are called, but few are chosen," and that I was "special" and "chosen."

I wasn't damaged because of my past, I was chosen and special because I had a testimony that I could share with others and a life story that could help others, and that is the greatest calling in life -- to be of help and service to others.

What my mom didn't realize is that she was chosen. My mom has been living out everything she taught me. She has been a living example of "with God, all things are possible." She is the definition of hope and inspiration.

Her mere existence makes me want to do better and be a better man. Her heart and her spirit are rooted in selflessness. She spent her life giving and sacrificing for my brother and me and now that we are grown, I've watched her give her heart and her time to the world -- selflessly.

And she does it at a personal cost. More than once my mom has cried on my shoulder -- deeply saddened by the violence in the world and on our college campuses, hurt by those who mock her, bully her and threaten her because she has dedicated herself to being a voice for those who do not have one.

It is in those moments when she cries on my shoulder that I am most proud to be her son. It's a great honor to be that strong shoulder for her. She's my hero and she should be yours, too. She is courageous and brave and relentless in her pursuit of justice and cultural change.

It's because of her example that I felt like I could contact the president of the NCAA and the entire Board of Governors and ask them to do something about violent athletes. It's because of her example that I felt like I could start a change.org petition that resulted in the NCAA convening an ad-hoc committee to combat sexual assault -- a committee that my mom sits on.

I'm just one person, but it's true that one person can change the world, and if you don't believe me, just look at my mom.

More on Brenda Tracy

• "I can act as a voice for victims" Video »

• Helping change culture on Baylor's campus Video »

• Sexual assault survivor finally gets answers Video »

• Tracy's son urges NCAA ban on violent athletes Story »

The IMPACT25 is espnW's annual list of the 25 athletes and influencers who have made the greatest difference for women in sports. Explore the 2016 list and more content at espnW.com/IMPACT25.

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