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Monday, October 2, 2023
Oct. 2, 2023

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Women’s festival to shine light on sex assault

Third annual event at Clark College features more than 20 speakers

By , Columbian staff writer

Brenda Tracy wants school coaches and student athletes to #SetTheExpecation that they’ll never engage in, nor tolerate, sexual misconduct.

Tracy, keynote speaker at this weekend’s International Women’s Festival Northwest at Clark College, was gang raped by four men — two of them Oregon State University football players — in 1998. Before that, she was sexually abused as a child. Her survival of all that, and her decision to tell her story after years of silence, is remarkable. In 1998, Tracy didn’t have the strength and self-esteem to help police pursue a criminal case against the rapists; she has since said she was on the verge of suicide.

It wasn’t until 2014 that she started speaking out about her experience, and became an activist for the processing of untested rape kits and extending the statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes in Oregon.

Tracy is one of more than 20 speakers at the festival, which gets started tonight with a film screening and the launch of a new “WA Says No More” campaign, organized by the conference’s sponsor, National Women’s Coalition Against Violence and Exploitation, in partnership with the ongoing nationwide No More movement to end domestic and sexual violence. March 4-10 has been declared “No More Week.”

“One in five college women will be sexually assaulted, yet only a fraction of these crimes are ever reported, and even fewer result in punishment for the perpetrators,” said conference organizer Michelle Bart, president of the Women’s Coalition, which is based here in Vancouver. “This can stop. The first step is to start a conversation about the problem, and we plan to do that this year.”

If You Go

What: International Women’s Festival Northwest.

• When:6-9 p.m. March 9 (in Foster Auditorium); 8 a.m.-5 p.m. March 10 (in Gaiser Hall).

• Where: Clark College, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver.

• Cost: $10 for Friday night only; $35 for Friday and Saturday; $20 for students.

• Information: womensfestivalnw.org



Download the #SetTheExpectation contract at brendatracy.com.

Doors open today at 6 p.m. at Foster Auditorium for a screening of “The Hunting Ground,” a 2015 documentary film that explores rape culture and the experience of numerous sexual assault victims on college campuses. (The film has proven both galvanizing to the movement and controversial as journalism, with some of its claims challenged as misleading and even “seriously false.”) Tracy will speak after the film.

The next day begins at 8 a.m. with a continental breakfast and networking time, followed by that lineup of speakers, workshops, exhibits, music and dancing, and the presentation of the 2018 Pebble Rebel Award, given to a woman making a difference in this community.

Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle will offer a Saturday morning welcome; emcee for the day will be Natalie Brand of KING-5 in Seattle; and scheduled speakers include Seattle author Kelly McNelis, GLAM Beauty Bar creator Meghan Hamilton, Vancouver Business Journal “Dress Code” contributor Dr. Carol Parker Walsh and Erika Worth of storytelling series Girls ROAR — among others.

The day ends with an evening wrap-up party at the Cellar 55 winery tasting room in downtown Vancouver.