United We Stand: Set the Expectation

Brenda Tracey presents to students bringing awareness to domestic violence

Brenda Tracey, founder of the “Set the Expectation” movement, gave a powerful monologue at the 2018 United We Stand presentation, hosted by the department of residence life in the Williams Fieldhouse. This movement has surged across the nation over the past year alongside the #metoo movement, and is about teaching young adults that sexual assault and physical violence are never okay.

Brenda Tracey is a survivor of sexual assault, and bravely told her story in detail to a silent crowd of Pioneers.  As a single mother of two, she went to hang out with some acquaintances at their house. She was offered a drink and refused it due to personal reasons, as she always did. The people around her persisted to pressure her, so she succumbed and said she would have one. She drank about four ounces of the drink they made for her, began to feel faint and eventually passed out.

She became aware later of four of the men she was with earlier. She was unable to speak or move, and was forced to endure hours of assault from those four men, unable to plead for help or fight back.  

When she came to, she left the house with the friend she came with, and made her way to the hospital to have the evidence collecte. After much inner turmoil, she decided to press charges against the four men, college football players, in an attempt to seek any kind of justice she could. The problem was that the entire community was against her. Her former best friend, a witness to the crime, threatened to testify against her. The district attorney of Lane County, Oregon at the time lied to her face, telling her she did not have a case when she later found out the district attorney had taped confessions from each of the men.

For years she felt that she was no longer whole, to the point where she wanted to take her own life.

“Every day I would wake up wanting to die. I hated my sons because they forced me to live,” Tracey said.

Later in life, she met a reporter who felt her story should be told. She told it, in all its detail, and this time the community backed her. It was too late for her to convict those who wronged her, but it wasn’t too late to change laws and the way that crimes like these are treated.  

That’s when she began “Set the Expectation,” and as it caught on, more and more people caught on, including Coach Mike Reilly, the former coach of two of the offenders. He reached out to Tracey personally and asked her to speak to him and his new team, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. She let out her anger at Reilly for defending the men and let him know exactly how it had made her feel for all of those years. Reilly then apologized in a way that allowed Tracey to forgive him.

“At some point in life you’ll hurt someone. You’ll have to decide whether you’ll hold yourself accountable, or make up excuses. Coach Reilly held himself accountable,” Tracey said.  

Forgiving Reilly allowed Tracey to finally have the personal peace she needed. She told her story in an effort to show students how something like this affects a person and push them to strive to prevent similar situations from happening to someone else.  

The University Counseling Services are located on the second floor of Royce Hall, and the staff there are always available to help students in any way they can.  What Brenda Tracey experienced should never happen, and victims of these acts should not blame themselves.

“I blamed myself for a long time, asking myself what I did wrong. But I didn’t do anything wrong. You shouldn’t have to be afraid of walking down the street, or going to a friend’s house. You are not the problem. Only a rapist causes rape. Period,” Tracey said.