William Beebe, 42, raped Liz Seccuro, above, now 40, 20 years ago when he was a frat boy and she was a sorority pledge attending a party at Beebe’s fraternity house at the University of Virginia. Seccuro was first drugged by way of something the frat house bartender slipped into her drink. She was then led by Beebe into a room upstairs where he pulled her onto his lap and began reading poetry to her. Repulsed, she pushed him away and fled, screaming, “HELP!” but a frat brother of Beebe’s grabbed her and threw her back in Beebe’s direction instead, then left. Beebe, whom she remembers as reeking of alcohol and body order, then threw her on the bed, ripped off her clothes, pried her legs open and raped her. She had never had sex before, the pain was agonizing, and she bled profusely, then passed out. She believes that while she was passed out, she was gang raped, and that possibly frat rushees watched the rapes as though it were a spectator sport. She awoke wrapped in a bloody sheet, then walked to the emergency room.
She immediately reported the rape to campus police and the Dean at the University of Virginia, who, she says, blew her off, did not believe her, dismissed her. She was devastated by the attacks. Her grades dropped, she withdrew from friends and family, she entered into a tumultuous relationship, then married the man and was quickly divorced. She began to suffer panic attacks.
Beebe “apologized” 20 years later in response to the “9th step” of the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery program, which requires that participants make amends to everyone they have harmed, unless to do so will cause additional harm. He mailed Seccuro a letter of apology 20 years after the rapes. The letter shocked and devastated her. She e-mailed Beebe, wanting to ask him more questions about his apology, the reasons for it, and what had happened that night. He insisted that although he’d been drunk, he remembered the events of that night, but his version was markedly different from what she remembered:
“I ‘convinced’ you after what seemed like hesitation, that staying w/me in my room upstairs was better than walking all the way back to the suites… Of course, seeing opportunity to have a good time w/you overrode any gentlemanly efforts to return you safely back to the dorms.
“We started to make out in my room a while…There was no fight and it was all over in short order. When we awoke in the morning it was still chilly out, so I lent you my jean jacket, and you walked home.
“There were no other men present. I was the only one.”
Disturbed by Beebe’s characterizing having raped her as “having fun” with her, Seccuro pressed him, and he finally acknowledged, in writing, that he had raped her.
It became increasingly evident to Seccuro as she e-mailed with Beebe, and events unfolded, that this was not primarily about Beebe making amends to her; this seemed to be more about Beebe, taking care of Beebe. The “amends” didn’t really seem to be about Beebe, asking Seccuro for forgiveness; more, they seemed to be about Beebe wanting to feel good about Beebe, more about him protecting his good-guy reputation with his AA group, where he was admired and respected.
With Beebe’s written confession in her hands, Seccuro called the police, and Beebe was arrested. Facing a sentence of life in prison, the supposedly remorseful and apologetic rapist so interested in making amends now denied ever raping Seccuro. He received support from the Christian community as well. Once the charges had been filed, Seccuro began receiving letters from godly indignants, demanding that she “forgive” Beebe and condemning her for pressing charges.
Beebe was ultimately indicted for rape and “sexual object penetration.” He entered into plea bargaining and the charge was reduced to aggravated sexual battery in exchange for Beebe agreeing to tell the truth about the other men who had raped Seccuro.
So much for his “amends.” So much for his “honesty” and his “sorrow” over what he did to her. So much for his “apology.” Note Beebe’s ongoing inability to consider anybody’s life or humanity but his own:
“I’m not trying to excuse my behavior,” he said at one point, “but I was a different person then. I have a purpose, and that gives life meaning. I didn’t have that then.”
Because of course, what really matters is how much purpose and meaning Beebe’s life might have had, not how a woman’s life has been irretrievably altered by his raping her. Because of course when men’s lives don’t have a purpose and a meaning, it’s easy to understand why they might drug a woman, gang rape her, brutalize her.
Beebe was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but 18 months suspended on condition he perform 500 hours of community service related to issues of sexual assault and alcohol abuse on college campuses.
What’s sobering to me are the polls where the news is being reported, asking readers to vote as to whether the sentence was too harsh, and the substantial public sentiment that she probably lied, she deserved it, she asked for it, she deserves to be raped again. What’s also sobering are the headlines, which far and away emphasize, not the fact of a brutal gang rape, but the rapist’s “apology” and that it’s been “20 years” and that it happened in “1984.” Who cares about some self-serving “apology”? Who cares that it’s been 20 years, that it happened in 1984? That’s 20 long years of agony for Liz Seccuro, 20 years of her having to relive and recall her nightmare, 20 years of feeling sucker punched and out of breath every time she saw men who reminded her of her rapist, looked like him, walked like him, talked like him, 20 years of panic attacks, 20 years of pain and suffering.
There is no sentence which will compensate Liz Seccuro for what she suffered. There can’t be one. There never will be. But at the very least, men like this ought to be charged, tried, and convicted, no matter how much time has elapsed since they raped a woman, and the cases ought to be widely publicized, and why? Because if they are not, men will continue to rape women and walk, just like Beebe walked for two long decades. And men, (and sadly, women, especially “Christians”), will continue to figure that if a man says, “I’m sorry” every time he rapes a woman, that should be sufficient.
Seccuro, together with alumnae of her sorority, have begun an organization called “Sisters Together Assisting Rape Survivors”.