Rape survivor wants to change culture with 'Set the Expectation' pledge for prep athletes

Rape survivor wants to change culture with 'Set the Expectation' pledge for prep athletes

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Rape survivor wants to change culture with 'Set the Expectation' pledge for prep athletes

Brenda Tracy

The indefatigable Brenda Tracy fights sexual violence on a daily basis — often by visiting with college athletes throughout the country to tell her story of being gang-raped by four men, including two Oregon State football players, in 1998, and the aftermath, which led to suicidal thoughts and depression.

Tracy hopes her story and an increased understanding of both consent and repercussions for violent actions will be part of a fundamental shift in this country’s education and handling of acts of sexual violence.

And so on Tuesday, Tracy is launching the new “Set the Expectation” pledge, aimed at male college and high school athletes.

The idea behind the pledge is simple. It’s not a legally binding document, but it is a step toward accountability for both athletes and the coaches who determine their playing time and status on the team. It can also provide coaches a blueprint — or at the very least a starting point — to have a conversation about consent, sexual assault and domestic violence.

For high school athletes, there’s also a spot on the pledge for a parent’s signature.

“I’m also targeting high schools with this, because I think it’s really important,” Tracy told USA TODAY Sports. “We need to get into our high schools and start having this conversation because right now we’re sending 18-year-old kids to college and then tell the colleges fix them, de-program them, teach them what consent is — and expecting nothing to happen on our campuses

“I think America is actually ready for us to start in high schools now. I think we’re finally thinking we should probably be having this conversation earlier than college.”

This, Tracy believes, is how you go about changing a culture — by changing the expectations of acceptable behavior.

“What happens when we have an eighth-grade boy who knows, ‘I’m not going to get to play in high school if I commit a violent act?’ ” Tracy said. “What happens to high schoolers if they know, ‘I’m not going to get to play in college and there’s no hope of ever getting an NFL contract if I commit these acts?’ Further, what are the discussions now if the parents and the people around this student understand, this is the expectation and if he commits this crime or this harmful behavior they’re not going to get to play.

“So now everybody has a vested interest in making sure they are grooming this kid to make sure he’s not committing these acts. So that’s the biggest part for me about set the expectation is sending the message to everyone that you should be having this conversation or eligibility is at risk.”

Tracy plans on meeting with both high school and college programs to outline the pledge and, hopefully, then have athletes sign it, though she wants to stress she doesn’t need to be present for any coach, player or team to join in on this initiative. Tracy wants to challenge coaches nation-wide to set the high expectations for their athletes.

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