At the age of 17, Liz Seccuro was drugged and gang raped at a fraternity party just five weeks after arriving at the University of Virginia. Over 20 years later, one of the perpetrators wrote a letter to her, apologizing for his crime. It led to his arrest, subsequent plea deal and brief prison term. The other rapists remain at large and the case remains open. Liz's case captured international media attention. She went on to write her recently released memoir, Crash Into Me: A Survivor's Search for Justice.
In her exclusive three-part series, "The Gift of the Fight," for Spirited Woman, Liz writes about her experience. In part one she reflected upon her childhood. In part two the rape. In part three the trial and getting on with her life.
On that day in September, as I prepared for a three-week working holiday in East Hampton, New York, my husband and then 2-year-old daughter Ava piled into the car with me, brimming with excitement. Mike and I are not vacationers, but we really needed a break, and, because Ava was just in preschool, we didn’t think missing a few days would be of serious consequence to her post-graduate work, ha!
I recall sitting in the passenger seat as we wended our way down our circular driveway, when I suddenly touched Mike on the arm and told him to stop and get the mail. He hit the brakes, looked at me with impatience, but walked the few hundred feet back to get the mail from our big, vintage white metal mail box. There was, indeed, a huge pile of mail.
Out of the stacks of invitations and catalogues, Mike lifted a stiff, creamy envelope and slid it to me. “You got a letter,” he said. My eyes scanned the postmark. It said “Las Vegas.” Hmm…I didn’t know anyone in Las Vegas. I saw lovely handwriting. This all happened in the space of about two seconds. My eyes scanned to the left upper corner and I saw it. The return address sticker. It was HIS name. That of my rapist. William Beebe.
The drive out to the Hamptons was filled with shock, tears, silence, medication, memories, panic, resignation and relief. The letter was, ostensibly, an apology by William Beebe for raping me in 1984 and inviting me to open a dialogue about it. It was the most strange and surreal moment of my life.
My book, Crash Into Me, chronicles what I did with that letter, how I proceeded with a criminal trial and how the case then received international attention due to the sheer oddity of the whole thing. I cannot do it justice here or explain what needs hundreds of pages of twist, turns, surprises and legal transcripts. What I DO know is on the day I received that letter, I became a victim again, then a survivor again, and now a warrior. For me, for my daughter, for all survivors, for all women.
The biggest change in my life, since the brief jail term and release of William Beebe has been the way I approach the world, other human beings, and myself. Gone are the days (for the most part – it’s a daily struggle) of self-esteem issues and self-destructive behavior. In 2008, Mike, Ava and I welcomed a new member of our family, baby Leo and now, as a mother of two, I recognized that being whole and healthy for them was paramount.