There's so much to this story that's old news, so much that's so awful yet so obscenely ordinary, that the whole thing is almost predictable. To a point.
At some D-1 university, some football players get drunk along with some maidens who've come for a party they really wouldn't wish on their worst enemy. Too much booze goes down, waaaay too much, and things go on that are beyond reprehensible, plain criminal. Rape goes on. Again and again.
Brenda Tracy, 24, a single mom, should not have been in the company of footballers from the local university, Oregon State, that night. She had her own life and the lives of her children to attend to. But she was.
When she woke up, she was naked beneath a sheet. Something beyond imagination, worse than a nightmare had gone on.
The attack lasted more than six hours and as I went in and out of consciousness the things that they did to me are now burned into my memory, Like a piece of cattle I was branded, never to forget eight hands on me, inside me, their laughs as they high-fived each other in a congratulatory manner as they each took turns raping me. … Never to forget the next morning when I awoke to the smell of dried vomit in my hair, the stickiness of a condom stuck to my stomach, the food crumbs that left indentations on my skin as I lay face down on the apartment floor like a piece of garbage that someone forgot to pick up.She decided to call the police.
And then commit suicide, she told a reporter.
The men who'd done it were hauled in. Two of them were charged with sodomy, unlawful sexual entry, and sexual abuse. They claimed it was all consensual, of course, and their coach, Mike Riley, slapped a one-game suspension on them.
Then Brenda Tracy dropped charges. The heat was horrible--hate mail, death threats, backlash. The players were stars. "They are really good guys who made a bad choice," Coach Riley said.
Later, when the entire story came out, Riley made clear that he deeply regretted what he'd done and not done, what he'd let the young men do, regretted it horribly.
So why tell this story again? Because there's more. The Washington Post featured it yesterday, but I can't believe my neighbors in Nebraska didn't know it long ago because Mike Riley is now coaching the Nebraska Cornhuskers and almost nothing that happens on that team gets by thousands of loyal Husker fans.
Here's the not-to-be-believed chapter: Eighteen years later, Coach Mike Riley asked Brenda Tracy to come to Lincoln and talk to the Huskers herself.
"I hated that man worse than my rapists," Brenda Tracy told an Oregon newspaper reporter. In the years that had passed since that awful night, she'd become a nurse, an advocate for rape victims, and even an employee of Oregon State, where she helped the institution prevent sexual assault. But her hatred for Mike Riley hadn't really subsided. He was, after all, the enabler.
When the two of them met, he reached out and hugged her, let her cry on his shoulder. They talked for an hour, the two of them. "I feel like I put everything on the table and left it all there," she told a reporter from Omaha. “He answered everything."
Then, as requested, she talked to Riley's Huskers, told them every detail, then turned to the coach, the enabler. She said she felt 150 faces turn simultaneously. "This is what accountability looks like," she told them. "It's okay to say you're sorry."
Amazing story. Wonderful story. You can't beat repentance and forgiveness.
Just can't beat it.
What happened, happened. Nothing will ever take it away, de-record it from memory. But 150 men witnessed something remarkable because repentance and forgiveness always is.
We come near unto God, Abraham Kuyper says, when we try to do what we know he does.