This piece was more divisive and generated more arguments among my friends and colleagues, than anything else I’ve done. It’s about a wrong finally set right. But I’m betting not all of you see it that way.
Liz Seccuro was raped at a frat party at UVA in 1984. She was 17, a freshman, and a virgin. She reported it to the university but it was her word against his and the investigation was inconclusive. The boy quit school a week after it happened. Liz says she just….lived with it. (I wish I could show you the whole hour, but copyright laws and all that – NBC owns it; she is incredibly eloquent about the harm this caused her physically and emotionally, about just shoving it way down, and trying to move forward in life.)
Twenty one years later, a letter from her attacker arrived in the mail. He was in AA – doing the steps – and was up to the one about making amends. He was writing to tell her he was sorry.
What would you do if that happened? Could you accept the apology and move on?? Liz stewed for a while, and then wrote back. She was angry: the man, William Beebe, kept referring vaguely to the “harm” he’d done her but wouldn’t name it outright. The two wrote back and forth until Beebe finally said it: I’m sorry I raped you.
And then, Liz Seccuro called the Virginia police. Turns out there’s no statute of limitations on crimes committed there. She turned over their communications. William Beebe was subsequently arrested, tried, and convicted of rape.
Why is this one of my favorites? Because I’m especially drawn to stories that aren’t tidy – where you really have to think about what you think. In this case, about the nature of forgiveness, what he tried to do and how she responded to it. Was she “right” to turn him in? Or, after all these years, do you find her a hard-ass? We got responses across the spectrum – somewhat along gender lines. (Yes, the women were generally on her side, men weren’t.)
I was impressed by Liz’s willingness to tell her story on national television – and by her bravery in making a choice that wasn’t necessarily popular but was, for her, based upon principle.
So, you think he’s sorry he ever reached out?
Think she’s sleeping any better at night?
I’m not sure.
But it does make you think…..
This story was produced by the awesomely talented John Block — my colleague and my true-and-forever friend.