Oct. 12-14: Brenda Tracy, sexual assault survivor, will address crowds during athletic events

Over the next week or so, UND student-athletes, coaches and administrators will be giving more than lip service to show that sexual assault and physical violence are never okay.

They’ll be wearing it on their sleeves, too – in a strong display of solidarity with the “Set The Expectation” – mantra.

That’s the battle cry made famous by sexual assault survivor Brenda Tracy, in purple and teal banners, posters, uniform decals and patches and in tags and hashtags on her powerful social media empire.

For the second time in less than a year, UND is honored to have Tracy on campus to spread her important message to friends and fans of Fighting Hawks athletes and more. She will arrive at UND on Friday, Oct. 12, just in time for the UND Fan Luncheon set for noon at the Alerus Center, where she’s scheduled to address the crowd.

“We are always trying to provide perspective for our department,” UND Athletics Director Bill Chaves. “Brenda’s willingness to share her life story with us will hopefully allow for everyone to make great choices in their respective lives. We thank Brenda for coming back to be recognized and for allowing us to be part of the solution.”

In 1998, Tracy was the victim of an on-campus sexual assault that involved student-athletes at a West Coast institution. After the incident, Tracy didn’t come forward right away. Charges were dropped. Evidence was destroyed and the statute of limitations expired, according to media accounts at the time.

Eventually, though, Tracy did come forward again – not to the authorities – rather to the public. And in doing so, she has become a powerful force in the “fight against the ongoing sexual assault problem in college athletics,” in the words of famed CBS sportswriter Dennis Dodd.

Lasting impressions

Before coming to UND, Tracy will have made several similar visits to campuses across America, including Stanford University, this weekend, influencing thousands along the way. She’s also had a longstanding relationship with the Big Sky, UND’s former conference home for most of its sports.

“I had the privilege of hearing Brenda speak when she visited our campus last (February),” said Cara Halgren, UND vice president for student affairs & diversity. “Her story is powerful and left a lasting impression on me.

“I’m excited that she is returning to UND and believe her visit will be one more way to help students understand sexual violence and how we can work together in our community to stop it.”

Tracy’s return to UND coincides with a huge 10-day sports extravaganza, with soccer, cross country, football, hockey and volleyball all in action on campus. She is slated to meet with some of the Fighting Hawk teams and make appearances at most of those game-day events.

Wearing support

UND athletes will be doing their part to show support for Tracy’s cause.

It all started Wednesday when UND Soccer took on Western Illinois in the “Set The Expectation” game at East Grand Forks Senior High School. UND players warmed up in specially designed Kelly green and white jerseys with the Set-The-Expectation message emblazoned across them. On their game jerseys were teal-and-purple-colored patches, hues in which Tracy uses to symbolize sexual assault and domestic violence, respectively.

On Saturday, Oct. 13, the UND Men’s and Women’s Cross Country squads will host the Ron Pynn Classic, in which all runners will wear teal and purple bibs over their uniform.

Then a bit later when the Fighting Hawks football team steps off the bus for their traditional “Hawk Walk” into the waiting tailgating crowds, the entire team will be wearing Set-The-Expectation apparel. During their game with the University of Montana Grizzlies, set for 1 p.m. at the Alerus Center, the team also will be wearing “Set The Expectation” decals on their helmets.

Later that night (7:07 p.m.) when UND Hockey faces off against the Bemidji State Beavers at Ralph Engelstad Arena, the team will be sporting both decals on their helmets and patches on their game jerseys. Tracy also is scheduled to relay a special Set-The-Expectation message on the arena’s video scoreboard during the first commercial break or intermission.

It all wraps up with a volleyball game at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 14, when UND will face the University of South Dakota Coyotes in the “Set The Expectation” match. Fighting Hawks players will wear the patch on their uniforms, and meet with Tracy before she departs UND.

Andres Freeman, UND assistant athletic director, said Tracy’s visit to UND last February, in which she spoke to UND student-athletes and to members of the UND Greek community, had an impact. He said coaches and administrators quickly began to plan for her return trip.

Mirrors UND’s stance

Tracy’s message also mirrors the University’s broader stance on sexual assault and physical violence.

One example of this is the annual Clothesline Project display, which fills the Memorial Union Ballroom with messages of despair and hope, illuminated on colorful T-shirts along hundreds of feet of clothesline, from survivors of sexual assault and physical violence.

A high point of the week-long tribute to stomping out violence is the “Take Back the Night Rally and March,” set for tonight at the Memorial Union in the same location as the Clothesline Project. After messages from survivors of violence, attendees will be able to march across campus in solidarity against violence.

Still another example of UND’s strategic commitment to providing a welcoming, safe and inclusive campus is its close cooperation with Grand Forks’ Community Violence Intervention Center, which runs a satellite location at the Memorial Union.

Donna Smith, UND’s equal employment opportunity/affirmative action director and gender-equity coordinator in accordance with federal Title IX policies, also recalls Tracy’s last visit to UND, her message and its impact.

“Brenda speaks from the heart about her own sexual assault and how she believes we can change culture around sexual violence,” Smith said. “Her message is that student athletes, coaches and schools can work together to ‘Set the Expectation’ about what is acceptable behavior in our universities and communities.   We all need to hold each other accountable.”