In 1984, college freshman Liz Seccuro was raped at a fraternity party. She remained silent, and 20 years later, while preparing to go on a family vacation, she received a letter of apology from her attacker, who was never punished. In her new memoir, Seccuro details her quest to find justice. Read an excerpt:
Chapter 1: The Letter
The morning of September 8, 2005 began like any other. Isn’t it strange that the days that change your life immeasurably always seem to begin so ordinarily? Friends have talked about days in which they’ve experienced immense tragedy or great joy, and they remember how the day started with a decaffeinated latte, kisses and an orange-juice normalcy that later seemed so bizarre in comparison. What is mundane and innocuous becomes alien.
My family — my husband, Mike, an investment banker, and our two-year-old daughter, Ava was preparing for a much-needed three-week working vacation in East Hampton, where we had rented a house for the remainder of the month of September. I hadn’t wanted to deal with all of those “summer people.” We wanted peace, so we put off our getaway until after Labor Day.
We live in Greenwich, Connecticut, where life is usually easy and, frankly, filled with all of the material benefits that one could want, due to its high concentration of hedge fund operations and WASP pedigree. The tree-lined main street, Greenwich Avenue, is home to some of the best shopping in the world — often called a New England Rodeo Drive. Mere minutes from town, the Back Country boasts massive estates owned by the scions of money, both old and new, alongside the estates of Hollywood elite — Mel Gibson, Ron Howard, Diana Ross — who seek out the quiet enclave as a respite from the rigors of the typical Los Angeles entertainment business life. Here, there are no paparazzi, no nightclubbing teen terrors. Perfectly highlighted and buffed trophy wives brush shoulders with preppy girls and young moms in the same boutiques and lunch spots. Convertible Saabs and Jeeps grace the town parking lots alongside more flashy cars like Maseratis and Bentleys. There are no traffic lights in Greenwich; just police who wave the cars and pedestrians by. The old denizens of Greenwich felt traffic lights would be an aesthetic blight on the famous “Avenue.”
Mike and I moved here from New York City when Ava was just over a year old. I had attended high school in Rye, New York, just five minutes away over the state line, so I was quite familiar with the community. Mike fell in love with its obvious seaside charms, great schools and wonderful people and, with its proximity to Mike’s office and the city life we had loved, it felt like a perfect compromise. Still, sometimes it’s nice to get away from even the nicest suburb. That morning, in my home office on the second floor, I furiously typed emails to clients and vendors, letting them know I’d be out of town, but of course, available via BlackBerry, laptop and cell phone. I am an event planner, so this is business as usual. I fill my weeks planning all manner of weddings, birthday parties, corporate events, product launches and children’s parties. I’ve had famous clients and clients who live next door. I have an intense passion for what I do — unfortunately, that means that tearing me away from a computer is a losing battle for anyone who tries to do so. Getting caught up in work, I tend to run a good half hour late to everything, and my own family vacation was no exception. When I finally emerged from a steamy shower and jumped into cargo pants and a tank top, I plunked a straw cowboy hat on my wet head as a final nod to the idea of vacation. Ava giggled uncontrollably at the unfamiliar sight of her vacation-mode mom. I double-checked her diaper bag for the requisite supplies for the road, but then was drawn again to the monitor, just to check if the tiny email envelope was blinking.
“Liz!” my husband yelled up the stairs. “Seriously, are you ever going to be getting in the car?!” Mike is a man who is right on time, all the time. A dead-ringer for golfer Phil Mickelson, he is tightly wound and probably more in need of a break than anyone I know. The Hamptons wouldn’t have been his first choice — it’s known as the playground of the East Coast elite, and Mike, a Southerner, regards it with some reverse snobbery. Although he insists it’s snooty, I suspect he loves the beaches in spite of himself. Still, he’s doing this vacation to indulge me, and I love him for it.
“Just one more email and I’m ready. Promise!” I trilled in my sweetest spouse-appeasing voice down the golf-green carpeted stairs. Tappety-tap, I emailed a client who was getting married in October about some last-minute decisions on lighting and menu that I wanted her to make in the next 48 hours. Ava was ready to go, towheaded and sweet, wearing a pink and white checked dress and tiny white sandals, her silky hair in a ponytail. She was playing in my office and prattling on about the beach, my hat, and the movie for the car ride. I imagined that she was wondering about this mysterious concept of “vacation,” since we had not taken one since she was 14 weeks old. I turned to her, lifted her off the ground and spun her around, covering her tiny baby arms with kisses before setting her back down on my office floor. Flip-flops went on my feet and it was time to go.
SEND. Save. Log off. Shut down. I scoop Ava up under my arm, jostle her onto my hip and descend the stairs with a giant portfolio of color and fabric swatches and storyboards slung over the other shoulder. Mike gives me a wry look.
“Vacation, huh?” He stares at all the work I am schlepping, shakes his head and gently guides me towards the front door before I can backtrack and double-check the stove, coffee-maker, voice mails. “Let’s go, honey. Seriously, come on.” But as we fire up the car and queue up “Finding Nemo” for Ava, my obsessive-compulsive self takes over, yet again. We’re pulling down the circular driveway when I blurt it out.
“Wait! I’ll bet the mailman’s been here. Get the mail, get the mail!”
“Oh, Jesus, Liz, why? It’ll just be a bunch of Restoration Hardware catalogues and bills. Can’t it wait?”
“No! You never know what’s there. Please, honey? Then we can go.”
Mike sighs, puts the car in park and ambles over to the mailbox in his khakis and polo shirt. Ava and I start singing a song, while she kicks the back of my seat and tries to grab the back of my cowboy hat. I peer out and see Mike rifling through the mail, which does indeed look to be like a massive haul of catalogues, bills and a few birthday party invitations for Miss Ava — a baby socialite, lately. I feel sheepish. Of course, he was right. The white metal mailbox slaps shut with a rusty squeak. Mike’s brow furrows a bit as he walks back towards the car. I give him my best movie-star smile in the hopes that he’s not utterly through with me.
“Hey, you got a letter,” he says with an odd look, sliding it across my legs.
I pick it up and flip it over. It’s an actual snail-mail letter — a relic!
“Who writes letters anymore?” I ask as my eyes scan the postmark. Las Vegas. Funny, I know no one in Vegas. My eyes slide left to the return address, and the air is literally sucked out of my lungs. I struggle to catch just one cleansing breath, but it won’t come.
There on the return address sticker, so neatly adhered in the upper left corner is his name:
The shaky, faintly feminine handwriting reads “Elizabeth Seccuro.” How does he know my married name, and what’s with “Elizabeth”? No one addresses me by my full name, except strangers and receptionists at doctors’ offices.
My heart skips several beats, and when it starts up again, tears slide down my face.
William Beebe. My rapist.
From "CRASH INTO ME" by Liz Seccuro. Copyright © 2011. Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury.
Response from the University of Virginia:
Liz Seccuro has shown courage in turning her painful experience into activism to educate a new generation of young women about the deep wounds that are left by rape. As you can imagine, the University's policies and procedures have changed dramatically in the 27 years since that event occurred. We strive to support our students in every possible way in the aftermath of a sexual assault. We also do extensive education in the hopes of preventing such occurrences. Stories such as Ms. Seccuro's go a long way in raising awareness about rape and the long-term impact on its victims.
For more information about efforts to combat sexual violence, visit and And for more information about expanding educational opportunities for low-income families in Milwaukee, visit .