When the past comes back to haunt you

Assault victim Liz Seccuro, right, chokes back tears as she listens to a question along with her husband, Mike in front of the Charlottesville District Court in Charlottesville, Va., Thursday, March 15, 2007. William Beebe was sentenced to 18 months in prison for raping her in 1984. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Assault victim Liz Seccuro, right, chokes back tears as she listens to a question along with her husband, Mike in front of the Charlottesville District Court in Charlottesville, Va., Thursday, March 15, 2007. William Beebe was sentenced to 18 months in prison for raping her in 1984.
(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

In high school, or college, did you ever force yourself sexually on a member of the opposite sex who said “no” or was too incapacitated to resist?

Was the victim of your insistence under the age of consent?

It you crossed that line, you might start looking back over your shoulder. It may have happened many years ago but it can come back to haunt you and could land you in prison with a felony record.

Virginia does not have a statute of limitations on felonies. Rape is a serious felony.

In 1984, Liz Securro was a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville when she went to a fraternity party, felt woozy after a drink and suffered unwanted, forcible sexual attacks from more than one male student.

She reported the rape to officials at UVa, but — as was all too typical in those days — nothing came of it.

In 2005, however, Securro received a letter from William Beebe, the last of three men to rape her that night after a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity party as she lay in a drug-induced haze from the spiked drink.  Beelbe wrote that had joined Alcoholics Anonymous and reached the ninth step of the 12-step program, the one where drunks contact those they wronged and were attempting to make amends.

Securro and Beebe exchanged emails about the rape and his coming to terms with his alcoholism.  She said she forgave him for what he did but she did not feel an apology was enough of a punishment for what he, and others, did to her.

She called Charlottesville police and reported the rape and Beebe’s confession — 23 years after it happened.

Because Virginia has no statute of limitations on felonies, police arrested Beebe, a real estate agent in Los Vegas, returned him to Charlottesville where prosecutors charged him with rape and object sexual penetration.  He faced life in prison but cut a plea bargain deal after evidence uncovered by investigators found Seccuro was also attacked by others that night.

Beebe got 18 months of prison, was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service.  His sentence included another eight and a half years of suspended sentence.

The other two rapists were never identified.

“I’m not trying to excuse my behavior, but I was a different person then,” Beebe says.  “I have a purpose, and that gives live meaning.  I didn’t have that then.”

Claude Worrell, the prosecutor in the case, called Beebe’s apology as selfish and brought the trauma of rape back into Secucuro’s life.

Seccuro went public about the case, wrote a book, and started STARS — Sisters Together Assisting Rape Survivors — to raise money and provide assistance for rape victims and their families.

Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward L. Hogshire says he struggled with his sentencing of Beeve.  He called what happened to Seccuro “horrific” but also felt Beebe had become a leader among recovering alcoholics.

“If he remorseful?  I think so,” the judge said in court.

As a recovering alcoholic, sober 21 years, seven months and three days on the day this was written, I have contacted dozens of people that I wronged during by 35 years as a drunk.

I started drinking at 15, was too often drunk in classes and events at Floyd County High School and while on dates.  The list of those I wronged in those days is long and completions of my amends is far from complete.

And I was a student of The University of Virginia from 1965-67.  I never attended a fraternity party and, while I was fortunate enough to enjoy the intimate company of young women during that period and others parts of my single life, I did not rape any of them.

As a drunk, I could have crossed that line and, sadly, I did cross too many other lines, hurt too many people and left those I wronged with traumas they did not deserve.

I will continue to make amends to each and every one of them as long as I am still able to do so:  One day at a time.

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