Rape Victim Forgave Attacker, Then Pressed Charges
Feb 16, 2011 – 1:12 PM
Liz Seccuro says forgiveness is one thing, justice another.
So when the man who raped her when she was a college freshman at the University of Virginia wrote her a letter of apology nearly 20 years later, Seccuro heard him out. And then, she pressed charges.
“Forgiveness is a journey you must take,” Seccuro, 43, said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. But, she said, “that’s different than our criminal justice system.”
The business owner, wife and mother of two from Washington, D.C., has written a memoir about her decades-long struggle for justice and closure, and is speaking out today, calling for more support for rape victims.
In a phone interview with AOL News today, Seccuro praised CBS News foreign correspondent Lara Logan, who was brutally assaulted in Cairo while covering events in Egypt Feb. 11, for allowing her story to go public.
Seccuro said victims of sexual assault can benefit when public figures talk openly about their experience. “Seemingly, talking about rape is the last taboo,” she said. “So it makes it easier when people in the public eye share their story. [Women] can feel stigmatized for talking about their assault, but I think it’s getting easier.”
Her own attacker, William Bebee, assaulted her at a party at the University of Virginia in 1984, and walked free for 19 years until he wrote Seccuro a letter in September 2005. “In October 1984 I harmed you,” the letter read, according to an excerpt from Seccuro’s memoir, “Crash Into Me,” published in the January issue of Marie Claire magazine. “I can scarcely begin to understand the degree to which, in your eyes, my behavior has affected you in its wake.”
Seccuro says she reported the rape to the college campus in 1984 but that the crime was never prosecuted. In Virginia, there’s no statute of limitations on rape, so in 2005, after a series of awkward and stressful exchanges with her attacker, Seccuro says she finally decided to press charges.
Bebee pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated sexual battery in 2006 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison but received a suspended sentence of 18 months. He was paroled in August 2007 after serving six months in prison. Seccuro told AOL News she was satisfied with Bebee’s sentence.
Seccuro, who is now a victims’ rights activist, said it took years to recover from the trauma of being raped. She has said that she struggled with eating disorders. “I did lose that innocence,” she told NBC. “Also, I lost a dignity I think I should have had. But I’ve regained it back.”
I think there should be statute of limitations on rape charges, but only from the time the attacker is identified by the victim since many rapes are committed by strangers. It’s ultimately the victims decision on whether or not to press charges since they are the ones that will have to testify and they are the accuser. In our system of justice a man is innocent until proven guilty and a man has the right to confront his accuser. The accused have a right to a speedy trial so without a limitation on when charges can be filed the Constitution has been violated. It would be unfair for a man to have sex with a woman and 10 years later be accused of rape. Even if charges are not filed immediately there should at the very least be a police report of the incident to the record made as soon as it’s possible to contact law enforcement. Statutes of limitations exist for a reason. The longer the period between the incident and the accusation by the supposed victim the less likely it was that a crime was committed. The more immediate the accusation the more likely it was that a crime occured. There are exceptions to this rule, but it’s a rule nonetheless. Evidence must be gathered and bruises and scratches fade with time as does the reliability of DNA evidence despite what you may have heard, so an examination must be performed immediately for later use in court. However the woman is correct that forgiveness is not the same thing as justice. Sometimes these things overlap, sometimes they don’t. In the cases of a rape or other kinds of sexual assault the victim needs to consider that it is highly probable that the criminal will commit the same sort of crime again to another person if not charged. That means that while the victim can forgive the person the victim may also have to file charges to prevent more crimes from occurring. It’s terrible to put the victim in that position, but that’s why it’s called a crime.
2 minutes ago Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
if a guy rapes he should be neutered pure and simple
4 minutes ago Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
notice how all those rightwing dudes were making such a big deal about that and then scorn this woman ?
5 minutes ago Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
I’m a man and find it appalling that even here it’s like that girl they whipped to death for being raped by her uncle . BLAME THE VICTIM ??????????????
5 minutes ago Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
While I don’t condone what this man did, and wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I do have to give him some credit. You don’t see many people commit aggregious wrongs, get away with it, then decide that they need to make things right, or at least as right as they could be, and admit their crime, plead guilty and accept their due punishment. And kudos to her, for her handling of everything. It also takes guts to forgive someone, especially for something that horrible.
6 minutes ago Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MiMi’s Mission – Attention NC LAWMAKERS – CNN iReport
13 minutes ago Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
“Bebee pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated sexual battery in 2006 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison but received a suspended sentence of 18 months. He was paroled in August 2007 after serving six months in prison.” A whole 6 months in prison for according to her destroying her life, that’s justice?
14 minutes ago Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
this woman was screwed over by the police at uva and they are the ones who need to pay by doing a better job.
THe reporter that was raped in egypt is an idiot and deserves the same sympathy as someone who goes swimming in the ocean when there are sharks present. You may have the right but if a shark does what sharks do don’t cry foul.
Women at colleges should asol think twice before doing 15 jello shots around a bunch of drunk frat boys who are spoiled brats to begin with
14 minutes ago Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
It makes perfect sense to me. She owed it to herself to forgive her attacker because that kind of anger is ultimately bad for her, even though he did great harm to her. She owed it to society to press charges because he might rape someone else. But even if he didn’t ever rape again, he should still suffer some punishment for committing a serious crime.
14 minutes ago
I am amazed at the comments from mostly men…..about what the man did….confessing to a crime of rape…he should have gotten punished….there are many men who rape women and get by with it…..or so they think….one day though each and every one will have judgement day…..this man does not have to wait and see what might happen to him….I think it was a very good thing that he did……if he waited so long to admit what he did…then it must have weighed heavy on his heart…..I think he did the right thing….and I also think that he will have a better life now that he has admitted it and served his time…..