Doing time for rape? Just say you’re sorry.

Who remembers the case of the man who was arrested and tried for a 1984 rape, after using his AA program to write a letter of confession and apology to his victim? I remember it well. I loved the bravery of the victim, Liz Seccuro, who shamelessly went public with her story. She refused to accept an apology as a form of justice, and had to watch others both excuse the crime that happened “so long ago” and excuse the “apologetic” rapist.
That man, William Beebe, is now being released on parole after serving only six months in jail.

William Beebe, 42, pleaded guilty in November to one count of aggravated sexual battery for his attack on Liz Seccuro while at the University of Virginia. In March, a judge ordered a 10-year prison sentence with all but 18 months suspended.
Seccuro was shocked when informed Tuesday by Beebe’s parole officer of his impending release. She said she was never given the opportunity to speak to the parole board.
“Everywhere in America I’ve seen, the victim has a say,” Seccuro said. “And that’s the problem rape victims are voiceless.”
Virginia abolished parole for all crimes committed after 1994, but because the crime occurred a decade earlier, Beebe is a candidate for early release. He has a projected release date of Sept. 17.

How seriously fucked up can you get? The man admitted to rape. His letter contained the words: “I want to make clear that I’m not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you. I did.” What the hell more do you possibly need? I don’t care how long ago it was. And while addiction sure sucks, being raped by an addict has to suck an awful lot more. I don’t care that he’s sorry. An apology should not be a get out of jail free card for a violent crime.
But, apparently, it is.
I’m happy that Seccuro is still speaking out, and hasn’t allowed herself to be shamed into silence. But it’s very little consolation, and in no way makes up for the injustice of a 10 year sentence being turned into six months in jail. Maybe this will silence the rape apologists who think that feminists are hysterical women when they speak up about society’s indifference towards rape. But somehow, I doubt it.

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29 Comments

  1. Posted August 10, 2007 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I don’t care that he’s sorry, either. Yes, he SHOULD be sorry, but being sorry is not the same as, say, not raping someone.
    What’s the takeaway lesson, here? Rape all you want, just say you’re sorry later, and everything’s a-okay!
    Gah.

  2. Incendria
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    It’s good that he’s sorry, but that doesn’t change what happened. And maybe I would understand if it factored into their decision to release him in 8 years instead of 10 – but 6 MONTHS? That’s a slap on his wrist (and her face).

  3. LindsayPW
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I don’t even think jail is good enough punishment for these assholes. They need to be castrated!
    What did that asshole rapist expect? For the victim to put his letter on her fridge? “Oh look everyone he’s said he’s sorry isn’t that just so sweet.” My fucking Gaawd.

  4. noname
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Shameful. Sincere remorse should be a factor when considering parole, but six months for a convicted rapist is ridiculous.

  5. Vervain
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    And to think, in books/TV shows/movies getting a signed confession is considered the ultimate in incontrovertible evidence.
    I guess signed confessions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. At least not when the signator remembers to throw in an “I’m sorry.”

  6. Posted August 10, 2007 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    That sucks. I saw this woman on a news show some months back, and was struck by her candor and her refusal to feel any more shame at what had been done to her. I hate that because rape involves–gasp!–genitals touching, so many people treat the victim as shamed. We don’t treat the victims of muggings or carjackings or home invasions or any other violent physical assault like that.
    And this wasn’t even a case where the defendant could argue a “misunderstanding”, she was DRUGGED, for the love of pete.

  7. Posted August 10, 2007 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    That is really depressing.
    I can understand why it might make sense from a legal-incentive perspective. It is better–maybe–to have people confess and go to jail for a shorter time, then not be able to send them to jail at all. But it’s still depressing as all hell.
    And even though I believe incentives can sometimes make sense, this seems way, way, too short. I mean hell, he confessed. He didn’t cop a plea; he confessed. To RAPE. Which is a pretty damn major felony.
    Six months is nothing.
    I wonder what the civil statute of limitations is in her state? She could always sue him civilly.

  8. mooserider
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    i don’t know…i don’t like his sentence either – only 6 months seems like it says an awful lot about how our justice system views rape.
    but i think some of this depends on what we view as the point of jail/imprisonment/other punishments. is it to punish someone for wrongdoing? to keep society safe? to ‘avenge’ the victims of the crime? to discourage others from doing it? or to reduce the rate of recidivism?
    i’ve always felt like a major point of imprisonment should be rehabilitating someone into society. i don’t think the goal of imprisoning a rapist should be the imprisonment itself. and i don’t think a rapist should be labeled as evil forever after being found guilty. there is a possibility that a person could do a horrible, despicable, deplorable thing at one point in their lives, and then learn or grow or become a better person who would never do such a thing again. and such a person could be sorry, and i don’t think that’s meaningless.
    i’m not saying that this particular guy should be forgiven – i don’t know enough about him or the case. and i’m truly not trying to minimize rape. i just hate it when people who do horrible things are demonized or vilified – it seems to not give them a chance to become something else.

  9. Peepers
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm. That’s a very humanistic stance on the penal system, mooserider, and one I could get behind. Unfortunately, rehabilitation-plus-penance is not how the US penal system works.

  10. SarahMC
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    “i’ve always felt like a major point of imprisonment should be rehabilitating someone into society.”
    Maybe that’s how it SHOULD be, but it certainly isn’t that case now. And this asshole shouldn’t get to be a free man just because he’s sorry. I’m sure a lot of imprisoned people are remorseful for their crimes, but are stuck with life in prison anyway.
    I think reading Feministing (and Feministe) might be negatively affecting my mental health. Every fucking day I read stories about shit like this (and MUCH worse) and feel like the rape culture is literally closing in on me. I leave the office, walk to my car, and see people just going about their days and I think “Why aren’t you people outraged?! Hey, you, woman jogging, men hate you! If you’re raped you’ll be blamed for wearing skimpy jogging shorts!” etc., etc. This world is just so damn depressing I don’t know how people deal with it.

  11. era4allNOW
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    SarahMC, it’s like you share my brain! That is EXACTLY how I have been feeling the past few weeks. I almost feel like I’ve become an angrier person because of everything i hear on the news, feministing, Air America Radio…the list goes on and on and on of all the horrible things happening in this world and in this “great” country. Wow it’s nice to know i’m not the only one feeling like i might be losing my mind. Is this where “ignorance is bliss” came from? I don’t believe that quote on principal, but i’m sure i’d be a lot happier with the world and this country the less I knew about it!

  12. SarahMC
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Oh, believe me; ignorance really is bliss. It’s gotta be much easier to be happy when you don’t know anything.
    Thanks for validating my downward spiral, haha. Unfortunately Feministing is an addiction. It’s all at once maddening and so, so good. But I don’t function the same way I did before I became aware of the patriarchy and rape culture. Now I wonder “Does he believe rape victims are partially to blame for their rapes?” about every guy I encounter. And whenever I see a woman acting all empowerful I want to shake her and tell her to stop undermining our efforts to overthrow the patriarchy. It’s tiring.

  13. Posted August 10, 2007 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I’ll third that sentiment, SarahMC. Some days I just turn off the computer and stare at it for a second and feel like screaming, because there’s so much shitty stuff happening. I’m lucky that I know a lot of people in my personal life who share my frustration and indignation, and we get together and we rant and rave and then we buy each other drinks and scowl at assholes. *sigh*

  14. bailey_comus
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    i too am consistently depressed by what i read here – which is not a bad thing – I tend towards complacency. i’ve had breast cancer twice and i just lost my mom to cancer, so the impulse is strong to just cocoon and block out the world. this blog keeps me aware that there’s work to be done, and motivates me to work for change.
    it also makes me appreciate the men in my life – husband, father, friends, coworkers that are NOT pigs and are pretty decent people.

  15. Shanpo
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree, Bailey-it is very disheartening to read a lot of what is going on in the world right now but it definitely shakes me up and reminds me to keep fighting the good fight and staying aware…and to appreciate the feminists (men and women) in my life… That aside,
    does anyone know how/where one can go about protesting this ridiculousness through the appropriate channels? Excuse the dumb questions you will probably start receiving from me, I am new to this kind of thing.

  16. Posted August 10, 2007 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Ever since I’ve become an “activist-in-training,” as I call it, I’ve noticed that I’m not as happy as I used to be, so I can personally relate to the few previous posts to this thread. Sometimes the injustice simply takes its toll. However, if we see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel in the form of an improved society, then I believe that activism-in-training, as well as regular activism, are sacrifices worth making.
    Shanpo: Don’t worry, I’m also new to this kind of thing; this is my first post.

  17. Jessi
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I was actually reading about this case recently (a teacher at my old high school has been accused of sexually assaulting a kid in my class, and this case came up in my searches) and it’s true: a lot of people, in fact maybe most people, think this woman is overreacting and evil and unforgiving and that this man is a good man and they hope he has a good life.
    Now, let me say a few things. I think it’s great that he apologized. He didn’t have to, he chose to.
    BUT in writing his letter to her, he should have known (hopefully intended) that he would be put in jail for his crime. Because he COMMITTED A CRIME. That’s what happens with any other violent crime! When somebody says “I’m sorry” about a cold case, they go to jail to prove it.
    Alcoholism is awful. But I believe that no matter WHAT you are always responsible for your own actions. Their are plenty of people who are tempted to do awful things, particularly when drunk. They choose not to.
    Also, wasn’t he serving a reduced sentence anyway because he agreed to testify against other people? (After denying that it was a gang rape, he reveals SURPRISE! it was!)
    I really respect her a lot for going through this when it would be easier not to.

  18. Corey
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, at a certain point, this shit stopped being surprising. How much more blatant can misogyny be- dismissing a woman’s trauma from rape and tragedizing a convicted rapist losing his freedom? Fucked up.

  19. SmallTownPsychosis
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    That he even felt entitled to try to absolve his guilty conscience by writing to her suggests he hasn’t quite grasped the notion that she (or any other woman) isn’t there to serve his needs.
    If he were any sort of decent human being at all, he would have turned himself in without imposing himself upon her once again. Uninvited, and surely unwanted.

  20. Posted August 10, 2007 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I posted on this too and found a disturbing series of opinion pieces written in the University of Virginia’s student news paper. In the first, Seccuro is blamed for “keeping silent� and is chastised by the idiot undergraduate author with these words, “College is the time when students must learn to make their own decisions, even the extremely difficult ones,� blaming her for going to the University police instead of the city police. In the next (amazing) article, Liz Seccuro herself corrects the false statements made about her and her case and fights the blame-the-victim attitude promoted by the first Cav Daily article. The final piece is a disappointing article penned by the Director of Sexual and Domestic Violence Services at UVA’s Women’s center. The revolting part of this article is the insistence that the tragedy of Seccuro’s being denied help after being drugged and raped happened because the proper institutions were not yet in place and that “that there was no intent to cause her harm.� That claim is clearly a ridiculous one since Seccuro went to the University and was told that the police had no jurisdiction over the fraternity houses. The Deans that told her and her parents this had to be aware that they were lying. They certainly would not have told the victim of any other violent assault that the police could not help them since it had occurred in a fraternity house. The University police also had to know that they were involved in a cover-up when they did not send her to the city police.

  21. Fenriswolf
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    “I think reading Feministing (and Feministe) might be negatively affecting my mental health. Every fucking day I read stories about shit like this (and MUCH worse) and feel like the rape culture is literally closing in on me. I leave the office, walk to my car, and see people just going about their days and I think “Why aren’t you people outraged?! Hey, you, woman jogging, men hate you! If you’re raped you’ll be blamed for wearing skimpy jogging shorts!” etc., etc. This world is just so damn depressing I don’t know how people deal with it.”
    OMG YES! And my partner just doesn’t get it – he finds sexism abhorrant, and notices personally when women are belittled etc.
    But he thinks I’m being masochistic reading this stuff. YES, it makes me cry, it hurts and makes me hate the world sometimes. But I don’t want to live in a bubble! It’s the bubble most people live in that make this shit possible

  22. Posted August 10, 2007 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Heh. Glad to know I’m not the only person who has to monitor her blood pressure after reading this blog. It’s enlightening…but infuriating and depressing.

  23. Jeremy F.
    Posted August 10, 2007 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    “This world is just so damn depressing I don’t know how people deal with it.”
    You get used to it. I’m a political science major, and when I first started out, the more I learned the more I hated political science. It was hard to be motivated about something I hated so I trudged along for a while.
    I have a different perspective now. To me the only thing more depressing than learning about the world I live in, is not learning about the world I live in and thus being unable to change it.

  24. Posted August 10, 2007 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    I definitely agree, Jeremy.

  25. Posted August 11, 2007 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    Ugh. I don’t know why I’m even surprised. It’s not anything new. I know 2 sisters who a few years ago put their uncle in jail b/c he sexually molested them for, well, their entire childhood. And what was his punishment for completely f*cking up their entire psyche and self-worth? Four lousy years in jail. I have no idea how much of that time he actually served.
    And meanwhile, marijuana smokers are getting thrown in jail for at least this same amount of time, if not longer. Justice? HA!
    (whatever you thunk of smoking or using drugs, I think we can all agree it’s a much lesser offense than, well, violating and raping someone)

  26. Posted August 11, 2007 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    I just read the article, and it sounds like his apology had little to do with getting out early:
    “He only got 18 months on a plea deal, so according to the time that was computed under the old system, this is when he was eligible to be released.”

  27. Posted August 11, 2007 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Well, I’m pretty certain that the plea deal had a hell of a lot to do with his apology. Also, just because someone is potentially eligible for parole doesn’t mean that he or she automatically receives it. Judges get to make judgment calls about these sorts of things– and, as the victim stated, victims usually get some sort of say, and she got none in this case. Again, are we to believe that his “remorse” had absolutely nothing to do with this sequence of events? I’m not buying it for a second.

  28. piotrek
    Posted August 12, 2007 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    If I understand the article, Beebe would not be tried at all if we did not come forward and confess, so his remorse can be assumed to be genuine. Moreover, early release on parole is not exactly end of the penalty, people can go to prison for rather trivial parole violations.
    If anything, legal system is more often screwed up in the punitive direction. E.g. it was a terrible idea to abolish parole in Virginia.
    I would advise not to get overly angry over stories collected over such a vast country as USA. And who is to know what a “correct penalty” is?
    I am male, so to emphathise, I think about a case from my hometown. I commute on a bicycle, and a bicyclist was killed by a man who was on disability as legally blind and who rear-ended two cars before. But he had a driver licence and he was sober. So what the penalty should be? Taking the driver licence away? 6 months suspended sentence? 2 years in prison before the first parole opportunity? 10 years? I would like him to serve some time, but otherwise I have no idea.

  29. oenophile
    Posted August 13, 2007 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I remember reading that she was likely gang-raped and this jerk may be able to help the police find the other rapists.
    Still doesn’t make it okay to only give him six months in jail. Ugh.

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