In a few days I will board a plane to Lincoln, Nebraska. As the day draws near I find myself becoming more anxious and emotional. It's difficult to articulate everything I'm feeling. It used to be easy.
Hate. Anger. Resentment. Disgust.
Those were the feelings that filled my heart and my mind when I heard the name Coach Mike Riley or when I had the unfortunate circumstance of thinking about him or that fateful night in Corvallis when my life was forever changed by his players.
June, 1998 I was drugged and gang-raped by four men. Two of them played football for Coach Mike Riley at Oregon State University. 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 8 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.
But the branding didn't stop there. Two weeks after reporting the attack and enduring a severe backlash and death threats from a community that should have helped me and protected me - I dropped the charges. And one day as I opened a newspaper I saw it. When asked about his players receiving a one game suspension for being arrested and then released for gang- rape Coach Riley said "These are really good guys who made a bad choice."
Again, the branding iron was hot and it seared through my flesh to my soul. A fifth mark. A fifth scar that I would carry forever.
How could Coach Riley say that? Good guys? A bad choice? I couldn't understand. What was a bad choice? Was it a bad choice when his player was raping me or when that player was watching 3 other men rape me?
A bad choice... a bad choice is staying up late when you have to be up early. A bad choice is drinking underage. A bad choice is speeding on the freeway and getting a ticket.
Gang-rape is NOT a bad choice.
And so now I will board a plane to Lincoln, Nebraska where Coach Riley is the head football coach. For the first time ever I will stand face to face with him and I will show him my scars and I will show his team my scars and I will tell them the story of the night "gang-rape became a bad choice"
You might wonder why I'm doing this. Why open myself up to the trauma? I've asked myself that plenty of times and the reason is the same as why I came forward to tell my story just over a year ago.
Healing for myself and hopefully others who have been victimized not only by their rapist, but also a system that didn’t protect them. What I’ve learned since coming forward is that survivors live vicariously through each other. The Stanford case exemplifies this. Emily Doe didn’t just write a statement that reflected her own feelings and experience. She wrote a statement that spoke for millions of us. Her voice is my voice and my voice is hers. Strangers who may never meet, but yet we share a bond that can never be broken. I don’t know her, but I do know her.
Nebraska is my way of paying homage to Emily Doe’s letter and the thousands of victims who have been victimized by athletes, coaches, athletic departments, athletic directors and Universities.
Nebraska is my impact statement.
And as I meet Coach Mike Riley face to face for the first time and as the fear and the tears well up inside me, I will think about Emily Doe who faced her rapist in court and bravely read her letter. I will think of my brothers and my sisters who have been sexually violated and betrayed and I will draw strength from all of them. I will carry their voices and their stories with me.
In a few days I will board a plane to Lincoln, Nebraska… Please pray for me.