In 1998 Brenda Tracy was gang raped by Oregon State University (OSU) athletes. She reported her assault to the police and cooperated with them. The police gathered enough evidence to charge defendants. But Brenda then lacked the emotional strength to follow through on prosecution.
Now she has come forward, sharing her identity and story. She was heartened by the belated response of OSU and the coach of the team. Ms Tracy is willing to do public talks to the football team and others at the university.
OSU President Edward J. Ray issued the following statement of apology:
I learned the details regarding this assault on Friday. Apparently, statements were taken from Ms. Tracy and the suspects, two of whom were on the Oregon State University football team at the time.
We are told that law enforcement officials in 1998 were not able to bring criminal charges because Ms. Tracy did not wish to participate in a prosecution.
OSU cannot control the criminal justice system, but I have asked university staff to obtain the police reports for the case and to determine if there are any actions we can take now under OSU’s code of student conduct. There may be no formal course of action available to us but we must try. While legal minds could no doubt explain how it makes sense to have a statute of limitations for sexual assault crimes, I find that appalling. Hopefully, justice delayed is not justice entirely denied in this case. We are currently trying to get the facts regarding OSU’s handling of this matter in 1998, including what efforts were made then to reach out to Ms. Tracy to help her deal with the terrible physical and emotional harm she suffered. If a case of this nature was reported to the university today, OSU’s Office of Equity and Inclusion would work to stop the sexual misconduct, assist the survivor and prevent a recurrence.
Ms. Tracy’s journey has been simultaneously heart-breaking and inspiring because of her own capacity to reclaim her sense of self-worth and pursue her education so that she can help others through her work as a nurse.
There is no statute of limitations on compassion or basic human decency. I understand that Mike Riley, who was our football coach at the time, has offered to meet with Ms. Tracy and would like to have her speak with the football team if she wishes to do so. The immediate response from us to Ms. Tracy is to ask how we can help her address the effects of this violence. It is our hope that any role she is willing and interested in pursuing to help educate our community on the horrors of sexual assault by sharing her story could bring some healing.
This would be of great interest to us, but only if it is helpful to Ms. Tracy in continuing to deal with all that she has suffered.
We cannot undo this nightmare. I personally apologize to Ms. Tracy for any failure on our part in 1998 in not helping her through this terrible ordeal. This is a moment from which each of us can learn. But it is mostly a moment for us to help Ms. Tracy heal.
As Jews who teach about teshuva (repentance), the staff of the Meisels seminaries should also have apologized. Instead they pervert the meaning of teshuva by thinking it is enough that Meisels entered therapy. The seminary staff preach midos (ethical conduct) while OSU just demonstrated them in practice. They preach emes (truth) but they are telling lies to their alumni denying Meisel’s abuse and their culpability for knowing about his misconduct and doing nothing.
Because they didn’t step up to the plate, a petition appealing to them to apologize was posted and submitted by Michal Ben Baruch (aka TruthSeeker). I hope they come to their senses though I doubt they will. My remaining hope is that most of the administrators and others are fired soon. If that doesn’t happen, I hope the school goes bankrupt. Other seminaries will take up the slack and will be mindful of the risks of ignoring abuse.