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Guest Blog Post: Changing Laws, Changing Culture

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Written by Peter Wong, appeared in the Portland Tribune on February 10, 2015



Danielle Tudor and Brenda Tracy, unlike many of the people who will walk the halls of the Capitol this year, say they want nothing for themselves.

They actually just met a few weeks ago. But they have a few things in common.

They are survivors of rape — Tudor in 1979, Tracy in 1998 — who took years to go public with their stories. Tudor did so in 2008 — although she acknowledges that she described it then as an attack, not rape — and Tracy just did so in November.

“I was impressed by her courage and the strength it takes to share that story,” Tudor says. “I know what it takes.”

They also want lawmakers to extend Oregon’s deadline for prosecutions of rape under the statute of limitations. Current law sets it at just six years after the crime, although it is longer for victims under age 18, and there is an exception if DNA evidence is involved.

That deadline is far shorter than in most states, including California and Washington, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. About 40 states set it at 10 years or longer; 28 have no limits.

Oregon’s law matches limits in Arkansas, Hawaii and New Hampshire; only Connecticut, Florida and Minnesota have lower limits.

They already have enlisted the help of Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem — a longtime champion of tougher laws against sexual abuse — and Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Although Courtney’s bill is likely to propose 20 years, they say they expect negotiations over specifics with the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Tudor says she does not expect lawmakers will abolish a statute of limitations for rape or allow a revival of years-old cases based on hearsay evidence.

“We are not trying to be unreasonable,” she says.

Tudor and Tracy, who spoke in an interview with the Portland Tribune, say they are not pressing for a change in the hope that it will help their personal circumstances.

Tudor’s perpetrator, Richard Troy Gillmore, has been in state prison since 1987. Gillmore acknowledged past rapes of nine women, but was convicted of only one.

Tracy had four perpetrators — three of them football players at Oregon State University — who were arrested but not prosecuted.

“We cannot change the past, and what happened with us,” Tudor says. “But we can change the future.”

Based on a 1998 report by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and cited on the RAINN website — one of every six women in the United States is a survivor of rape or a target of attempted rape.

About 3 percent of men have been rape victims.

The issue has drawn renewed attention, particularly on college campuses and professional sports leagues. Oregon has had a sexual assault task force, part of the Department of Justice, for more than a decade.

Survivors are more than statistics.


Danielle Tudor

Tudor was raped by Gillmore at her home in Portland in 1979, when she was 17 years old and he was nearly 20. Gillmore, who became known as the “jogger rapist,” was finally arrested in connection with the 1986 rape of Tiffany Edens, then 13, at her home in Troutdale.

Gillmore acknowledged that he raped nine women, including Tudor, but was convicted only on charges involving Edens. He was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years — and a maximum of 60 years — for rape, first-degree burglary, and two counts of first-degree sexual assault.

The rape occurred eight years before voters approved mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes such as rape.

But in 1988, the year after his conviction, the state parole board cut Gillmore’s minimum sentence in half.

Tudor was urged by a prosecutor 20 years later to come forth with her story. She did not do so then, but finally did in a news account later in 2008.

“Even though it was not my fault, I still felt a lot of guilt and shame,” Tudor says, even substituting “attack” for rape in that 2008 account.

“I thought: Am I still that terrified 17 year old? I thought I was. When I got the courage to change my mind and come forward as a victim, I found I was not that person any longer.”

The parole board denied Gillmore’s bid for parole by a 2-1 vote in 2012, after the proceeding drew public attention. He did not renew a bid for parole last year.

Gillmore remains at Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla.

Brenda Tracy

Tracy was a 24-year-old waitress at a restaurant in Keizer back in 1998 when she was raped and sodomized by four men after a night on the town with others in Corvallis. Three of them were football players at OSU.

They were arrested, and two of the players were suspended by then-Coach Mike Riley. But about three weeks later, she declined to press criminal charges, and they were not indicted.

Under Oregon’s mandatory minimums, known as Measure 11, their sentences would have been slightly more than eight years each on counts of first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy.

“At that point I decided to drop the charges, because I was given the impression by the (Benton County) district attorney that this was a ‘he said, she said’ type of case — which would be difficult — and I was going to have to go through four separate trials,” Tracy says.

“The DA said that if they did not have me, they had nothing. I was not going to be able to do four trials.

“Knowing what I know now, I would have loved to have had them prosecuted. But I have no recourse.”

Tracy says she was upset that evidence was destroyed before the six-year limit expired.

Personal aftermath

Tudor never told her sons about her 1979 rape until they found out about it through the 2008 news account.

Tudor says as hard as it is for victims, she encourages them to report such crimes to police.

“Even if you cannot move forward with that case now and do not see how you would be able to, do everything you can, so that you have that option open,” she says.

Tracy’s sons were young — just 4 and 5 — when she was raped. She says she told her older son when he was 15, but never told her younger son; both are now in their 20s.

“I had to learn that if I came forward and speak the truth about what happened to me, it does not define me,” she says. “I tried for 16 years for me not to deal with it — act like it did not happen to me — and it was not part of my story. But you cannot.”

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