Sex abuse survivor calling on state leaders to expand rape shiel - KPTV - FOX 12

Sex abuse survivor calling on state leaders to expand rape shield law in Oregon

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SALEM, OR (KPTV) -

She's demanding change in the name of all survivors of sex abuse. Brenda Tracy, a survivor herself, now calling on state leaders to allow Oregon's rape shield law to apply to civil cases too.

Tracy says she considers it her life mission to make sure what happened to her doesn't happen to anyone else. Working with her attorney, she took the idea for Senate Bill 261 straight to Senator Sara Gelser. 

"The system is set up to protect us and when it's broken then it's up to us as citizens and legislators and Oregonians to fix it," said Tracy.

Tracy is a mom, a nurse an activist and a survivor.

"In 1998 I was drugged and I was gang raped by four men. I came forward immediately and got a rape kit done, I made a report, I did everything right. But, two of my rapists were football players at Oregon State," said Tracy. "The media got ahold of the story and the backlash began. I was immediately called a liar and asked why I as trying to ruin their careers. At the time the DA said I didn't have a good case, so I dropped the charges after death threats to me and my children."

Sixteen years later when she decided to come forward with her story, it was too late.

"My rape kit was not tested, it was destroyed before statute of limitations was up, pretty much I was shut out of the justice system completely," said Tracy.

Instead giving up, Tracy became a voice for others. Working with victim rights attorney Jacqueline Swanson they lobbied for change in the justice system.

Tracy was an integral part in getting Melissa's Law passed in Oregon. A bill that targeted the statewide backlog of untested rape kits and made it mandatory to test those kits along with all kits in the future. 

"Of course each session Jackie and I will sit down and be like what more can we do, where are the loopholes, or the problem areas, what more can we do to help Oregonians," said Tracy.

The two discovered Oregon's rape shield law doesn't apply to civil cases. Currently, the law prevents a victim's past sexual behavior from being brought up in the courtroom, but only in criminal cases.

"The importance of rape shield laws really cannot be understated," said Jacqueline Swanson. "Unfortunately, in Oregon, our rape shield protection doesn't extend. So, if you had a civil suit against someone for a sexual assault, there's nothing stopping the other side from introducing evidence of what you were wearing that night, your prior partners, if you had sex the night before, or sex with that same individual before."

Soon after, they went to Senator Sara Gelser to help them change Oregon law once again.

"Whether it's a criminal or civil case, if you step forward to seek justice because you've experienced assault, harassment, or rape, your history is private and it is not fair game for the other party," said Senator Gelser. 

From there, Senate Bill 261 was drafted. 

"Anyone coming forward deserves to be protected to tell their story, and we're going to keep working hard to make sure there are laws that make that possible," said Sen. Gelser.

"Justice doesn't look the same for everyone," said Tracy. "Maybe justice for one survivor is the civil system, telling their story and being heard."

Justice for Tracy is seeking justice for all. 

"I think of how many of me there are. There are too many," said Tracy. 

You can count on her sitting front and center at the state capitol this year, as lawmakers vote on SB 261.

"I want to make sure they see me, especially if you're going to vote against me and against survivors, then I want you to do it in front of me.  I make sure I'm present for everything," said Tracy.

Tracy does a lot of public speaking at universities and survivor conferences across the country. For more information about Tracy's story visit: http://www.brendatracy.com/

To read more about SB 261 visit: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/SB261/Introduced

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