Business & Government

Step In, Stand Up: Sexual Assault Survivor, Activist Brenda Tracy Visits Texas A&M

April 3, 2017

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By Victoria White, Texas A&M University Athletics

Aggie students shuffle into the Hall of Champions after an exhausting day of class and practice with a looming exam in the morning and quiet chatter among friends on their minds.
Then, the crowd goes quiet as Brenda Tracy walks onstage and recounts a night in 1998 that changed her life forever.

Mixed emotions fill the crowd of approximately 600 student-athletes with a tear forming in a watering eye, a sickening feeling in the pit of a stomach, anger at injustice–while Tracy, a mother, nurse and public speaker, recounts the story of a horrifying attack and her journey for justice in the subsequent years.

“I don’t see how any person in their right mind could literally watch that happen and be okay with it,” senior baseball infielder Joel Davis said. “That really upset me and the sad thing is there’s a lot of other stories that have gone unnoticed all across the country. It’s really sad that there was somebody in the right position, knowing that what they were doing was wrong and didn’t say anything about it.”

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Sexual assault survivor and activist Brenda Tracy. (Photo courtesy of @brendatracy24 on Twitter)

Now an advocate for social change and an end to rape culture, Tracy travels the country speaking to crowds and challenging college athletes to take a stand.

“We should be the ones at the forefront to prevent actions like these,” junior track and field athlete Maddy Stulce said. “We should be promoting to the entire student body. And not only here at A&M, but throughout our conference and throughout the entire NCAA, that acts like these can be prevented.”

Both Stulce and junior swimmer Laura Norman said that hearing Tracy’s talk inspired the Aggie athletes to activism. Indeed, Tracy’s talk was the catalyst in planning creative events to raise awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.

“This does happen,” Norman said. “All the time, on campus [and] off campus. It happens to people like us and from people like us. So as hard as it was to hear the horror story of what happened, it was really eye opening.”
On April 8, the Texas A&M baseball team will wear teal wristbands, the color of Sexual Assault Awareness, as student-athletes of various sports give out bubble machines for donations. There are plans for sexual assault survivors to throw out the first pitch as well.

Additionally, on April 22, student-athletes will distribute maroon and teal seat cushions and accept donations benefitting SARC (Sexual Assault Resource Center) at the Aggie softball game.

During her speeches, Tracy humanizes the issue of sexual assault then presents a solution for student-athletes to think about.

Football Director of Player Development Mikado Hinson stated the importance of ongoing education on sexual assault and how his players treat women or “other men’s daughters,” as Hinson says.

“Accountability is huge and that goes beyond these walls here in the athletic complex,” Hinson said. “That goes beyond the football field and the locker room. This is life. You’re a role model, there’s no way around it, and you have a choice every single day which way you’re going to influence people.” 


Hinson said a dedicated team comprised of individuals such as Strength and Conditioning Coach Mark Hocke, Football Associate Athletic Director Gary Reynolds and Head Coach Kevin Sumlin among others work together to mentor football players in becoming good men and productive citizens through one-on-one mentoring, small group settings, various speakers and volunteer opportunities in the community.

“We have some real solid young men on our team and I’m really proud of them,” Hinson said. “I’m proud to work for Coach Sumlin and to be under his vision and his leadership because he allows us [and] he encourages us to continually teach on these issues. He doesn’t skirt around them, he doesn’t downplay them. He understands the seriousness of it.”
According to Tracy, shedding light on injustice is a way to hold people accountable.

“It’s real. It’s prevalent today and it needs to be stopped,” Davis said. “Yeah, we can laugh about it and make jokes about it, but that’s a cowardly way of talking about it. Be real about it. If that was your [family member], how would you feel? We can’t turn a blind eye to it anymore.”

For both Davis and junior quarterback Jake Hubenak, their families influenced their integrity and outlook on respect. Hubenak said he strives to be a positive role model and wants to make Texas A&M a safe place by looking out for the well-being of others.

“Be there for other people, always have an open door if someone needs to come talk to you, but also prevent it before it even happens,” Hubenak said. “I think we should be known as a campus that stands against [sexual violence], as a campus that if it happens it’s definitely not okay and as a campus that is just going to look out for each other and just make sure that it never happens.”

Similarly, Davis wants Texas A&M to represent security for students and visitors.

“I definitely want a culture to where regardless if you’re a male or female, you feel safe here and that you feel welcome and regardless of what happens [you know that people are] going to have your back and they’re going to have the best interest [for] you.”

Their sentiments embody the mission of Texas A&M’s sexual assault awareness campaign, Step In. Stand Up. Launched in 2015, the campaign aims to empower students, faculty and staff to step in to prevent acts of sexual violence before they happen and to encourage students, faculty and staff to stand up for survivors. 

Visit and take the pledge to help put an end to sexual violence at Texas A&M.

And although the battle is far from over, many young adults have made strides in the fight against sexual violence, including Tracy’s son, Darius Adams.
After the Baylor University sexual assault scandals, Adams sent a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors desiring change. About six days later, he was invited to a meeting with the Board of Governors that took place last August. 

“From that meeting, they decided to convene a committee to combat sexual assaults,” Tracy said. “I’m on that committee now, so I go to NCAA meetings in Indianapolis. We’re talking about possibly creating legislation and real bylaws around this issue.”

He also published the letter on [] and the petition has accumulated nearly 175,000 supporters so far.

“When I go to these meetings and there’s all these people from all over the country that are there talking about this issue, I think, ‘wow, my son did that.’ It’s pretty awesome,” Tracy said. “I’ve taught him through his life that with God all things are possible and I’m very proud of him.”
Tracy also has a message of support for survivors.

“I spent a lot of years blaming myself, hating myself, feeling like I was isolated and alone like no one else could understand and no one cared–and that’s a horrible place to be,” Tracy said. “It’s really important to understand that this happens to a lot of people but we just don’t know it because we’re silent about it. But there’s a lot of strength and hope and healing in understanding that you did nothing wrong and you’re not alone.”

Rallying behind survivors and educating people about the severity of the issue are steps in the right direction.

“We can stand up and be a strong support system for every student on campus who has gone through experiences like these and show that we are a stronger force than the people who would act on sexual assault,” Stulce said.

Between her appearances at schools and NCAA meetings, Tracy is launching a new campaign called Set the Expectation on April 4—one that reaches out to high school and college athletes to take a written pledge establishing a clear expectation for teams across the nation: “sexual assault and physical violence is never okay.”

“When we think about the dynamics on a campus, what would it look like if our high schoolers understood what consent was before coming onto campus?” Tracy said. “That would be a big deal.”
Students agreed Tracy’s message was powerful.

“Ms. Tracy really had an impact on everyone when she came that night,” Hubenak said. “By the end of it, she really had everyone engaged and I think everyone learned a lot from what she had to say.”

Tracy, too, said she was grateful for the support Texas A&M showed and expressed optimism that Aggie student-athletes could be leaders in this issue for the rest of the nation to follow.

“I am really thankful to everyone at Texas A&M and I feel like they really can be agents of change, not just on their own campus, but in the state of Texas and on a national level too,” Tracy said. “I appreciate their willingness to be open and work with me. I think it says a lot about their culture and the strength of the administration on that campus.”


This story by Victoria White was originally posted on

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