20 years later: Rape apologist faces court hearing
In the two months since her alleged rapist's January 4 arrest in Las Vegas, UVA grad Liz Seccuro says the media frenzy has at times been overwhelming– with reporters sometimes camped out in her Greenwich, Connecticut driveway.
"At one point I was cowering in my kitchen, trying to hide from them," she recalls.
She was featured in the February 20 issue of People magazine, has completed interviews for an upcoming Dateline NBC episode, and has been in touch with representatives from CNN, CNBC, and Fox though she says she declined a request for an interview with Fox's Geraldo Rivera, who visited Charlottesville in January to research her story.
Seccuro says the reality of going public with her story has been harder than she expected.
"Had I known the stress for my family, would I have come forward? It's hard to say," she says. "I'd like to think I would have, that I wouldn't have chickened out."
Media scrutiny of the case isn't likely to wane anytime soon. In fact, quite the opposite. Twenty-one years after fellow UVA student William N. Beebe allegedly raped Seccuro, and six months after he first contacted her to apologize as part of a 12-step program, 40-year-old Beebe's preliminary hearing is set for March 24 in Juvenile and Domestic Relations court. (Seccuro was a minor at the time of the alleged assault.)
Seccuro, now 39, first spoke publicly about her ordeal in the Hook's January 12 cover story, "I harmed you: 21 years and 12 step later, rape apology backfires," describing a brutal assault in a UVA fraternity house on October 5, 1984.
Beebe, free since late January on $30,000 bond, is staying with friends in Richmond and has consistently declined comment on the case through his lawyer, Rhonda Quagliana.
What is clear is that there would be no case had Beebe not reached out to Seccuro in the letter he sent last September.
"In October 1984," he wrote, "I harmed you." He invited Seccuro to contact him, and expressed a wish to "begin to set right the wrong I've done, in any way you see fit."
Quagliana says Beebe's words do not amount to an admission of guilt, but are rather the words of someone who feels bad about a "too-much-to-drink college sex event."
Whatever his intent, Beebe's contact and apparent admission– reopened Seccuro's wounds. Since his contact and subsequent arrest, Seccuro adds, she has reentered therapy and has been relying on her husband and family for support.
"Of course we're standing behind her," says her father, Robert Schimpf, of Yonkers. "She's a great girl, and we're very proud of her," he adds, while admitting the situation is hard on everyone.
"We went through this the first time," he says, "and now we have to relive the whole thing again."
Seccuro says she's looking forward to getting past this hearing and an eventual trial– and she's particularly interested in seeing change regarding rape at a legislative level.
"I feel like this is my Elle Woods moment," she says, referring to the role Reese Witherspoon made famous in the comedy Legally Blond.
"You can apparently go to jail for years for having a dime bag of marijuana, and a rapist can get, like, six months?" she asks. "Someone has to change the rules."
William N. Beebe in his January 4 mugshot
COURTESY LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPT.
In mid-December, Seccuro came to Charlottesville to meet with police and file her complaint against Beebe.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO