On Sunday, Rolling Stone's story "A Rape on Campus" was formally retracted after a report by Columbia Journalism School found the magazine made some major errors in the reporting and editing of the article. Although Virginia police suspended the investigation after saying there was a lack evidence of any assault at Phi Kappa Psi, and the fraternity has threatened to sue Rolling Stone for defamation, the frat has been accused of sexual assault before — and that time, one former fraternity member was found guilty. In 2006, a former UVA member of Phi Kappa Psi was convicted of sexually assaulting Liz Seccuro, a fellow UVA student, in 1984 in the fraternity's house.
Seccuro didn't seek justice for her alleged rape until nearly 20 years after it happened. In 2005, Seccuro pressed charges against her attacker, William Beebe, after he allegedly sent her a letter apologizing and continued to correspond with her for months. Beebe was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but two and a half years suspended. He ended up serving less than six months in jail.
According to Seccuro's book, Crash Into Me: A Survivor's Search for Justice, the investigation allegedly uncovered that her assault was a gang rape, but there wasn't enough evidence to indict the other two men Seccuro says were involved. Seccuro wrote about the assault and her decision to press charges in The Guardian and in her book. In The Guardian, Seccuro said that the letter she received in the mail from Beebe read:
In October 1984 I harmed you. I can scarcely begin to understand the degree to which, in your eyes, my behaviour has affected you in its wake. Still, I stand prepared to hear from you about just how, and in what ways you've been affected; and to begin to set right the wrong I've done, in any way you see fit. Most sincerely yours, Will Beebe
Seccuro describes the night of the assault her freshman year of college in a Guardian article, writing that she went to a party at Phi Kappa Psi as her friend's date, whom she got separated from. One of the frat brothers allegedly gave her a drink, calling it the "house special," that made her arms and legs go numb. According to Seccuro's account, another Phi Kappa Psi member then allegedly took her to a room. When she ran out of the room, Seccuro alleges, somebody picked her up and took her right back. Seccuro claims she was raped repeatedly throughout the night.
When she woke up in the morning, she says she went to the UVA medical center. She claims in The Guardian that she was told a rape kit couldn't be done in Charlottesville and she would have to go to a bigger city, so she went back to her dorm. She met with the dean of students the following Monday, who allegedly told her she should file a report with the university police rather than the Charlottesville police. According to Seccuro, nothing came of the university police's investigation.
There's conflicting information on Seccuro's alleged report to police. At the time of the trial, the UVA police said there was no record that Seccuro had filed a report with them, according to NBC29. In a 2006 article from Charlottesville weekly newspaper The Hook, though, Seccuro claims an associate dean of students took her to file a report with UVA police. In the article, The Hook writes that UVA spokesperson Carol Wood "found documentation in the Office of Student Affairs verifying Seccuro's complaint."
After Seccuro received the letter from Beebe in 2005, she says, she responded to him via e-mail. She writes in The Guardian that she replied:
Mr. Beebe: I am in receipt of your letter. My life was terribly altered by the fact that you raped me, and I want to know why you did it and why you are reaching out to me now. Every decision in my life has been coloured by wanting to feel safe. Now I don't feel safe again. How can you live with yourself?
In December 2005, Seccuro says she called the Charlottesville police and told the police chief what happened in 1984 and that her attacker was now contacting her and knew where she lived. She decided to press charges, and Beebe was arrested for felony rape in January.
Two weeks before the trial was set to take place, Beebe struck a deal and pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated sexual battery. According to the Daily Mail, UVA said in a statement following Beebe's conviction that the university had changed its policies on sexual assault.
According to her website, Seccuro is now a victims' rights advocate and lobbies for legislation that would help support sexual assault victims, along with managing an event-planning business based in Washington D.C. She also founded STARS (Sisters Together Assisting Rape Survivor), which funds programs that help rape victims who are seeking justice and trying to heal.
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