true crime

Repost: Six months in jail and a lifetime in hell…

One more repost today. This is a post I wrote in June 2016, when Brock Turner was in the news. I am reposting this as/is because I mentioned Brock Turner in today’s fresh content and reposted my review of Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me. Today’s featured photo is a screenshot of Brock Turner’s on video.

I just read the tragic story about a 23 year old woman who was brutally assaulted and raped behind a Dumpster in California in January 2015.  The woman’s attacker, Brock Allen Turner, was then a Stanford University freshman and a star swimmer.  He had a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit in California and was in the middle of thrusting into his unconscious victim, when he was spotted by two Swedish Stanford graduate students who happened to be passing by on their bikes.  Thankfully, they didn’t hesitate to get involved.  Turner tried to run, but the graduate students tackled him.

Now in June 2016, the former Stanford University athlete has finally had his day in court.  He faced his victim, who read a very powerful letter to him.  And then, Judge Aaron Perskey, handed down an astonishing sentence.  Turner, who had just been convicted of sexually penetrating an intoxicated and unconscious person with a foreign object, was sentenced to a mere six months in jail and probation.  Prosecutors had requested six years in prison.  Judge Perskey cited Turner’s lack of a prior criminal history and said “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.”

But he was a danger to one person.  If you haven’t read her letter to her attacker, I highly recommend reading it.  If you are a parent, especially to sons, I would have them read the letter, too.  Rape is too often swept under the rug.  

Brock Allen Turner will serve his time and be out and about again. He may spend six months of hell in jail. His victim has a lifetime of hellish memories to live with. She says she doesn’t remember the assault itself because she was unconscious. What she does remember is waking up in a hospital, her clothes confiscated. She remembers her hair full of pine needles, and cuts and abrasions all over her body. She remembers how the nurses documented her injuries, and being warned that she should be tested for HIV, because sometimes it takes awhile for the virus to show up in tests.

Brock Allen Turner’s victim will then have memories of being in court, being asked very intrusive and pointed questions designed to remove the glare of guilt from the accused. She will remember being asked what she was wearing, how much she was drinking, and whether or not she was sexually active. She will spend the rest of her life remembering how another human being attacked her while she was passed out drunk. It will color her relationships with other people, especially people with whom she will have intimate relationships. It will affect her friends and family and perhaps future children, if she has them. This rape won’t just affect the victim. It will have ripple effects that will affect many people for years to come.

Before I read about Turner’s attack on the unconscious woman, I was reminded of a case from my generation.  Back in the fall of 1990, I was a college freshman in Virginia.  I had a friend who was a student at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  This friend and I had grown up near Williamsburg and she had opted to go to school close to home.

My former friend had a classmate at William & Mary who made huge headlines in 1990.  Her name is Katie Koestner. Koestner made the news when she went out on a date with a guy who raped her in her dorm room.  When she sought justice, she was basically brushed aside by the powers that be.  She fought back and was later pictured on the cover of Time Magazine.

I remember my ex friend making disparaging remarks about Katie Koestner. A lot of people at William & Mary were upset because she was demanding justice and “cheapening” their degrees by making William & Mary “known” for rape. William & Mary is an excellent school, and it’s the second oldest university in the United States. I worked in their admissions office as a temp for awhile and saw the applications from would be students. It was 1998, a full eight years after Koestner’s rape. Plenty of people still sought admission and thought of the school as outstanding. I’m surprised at how stupid Koestner’s classmates were in their assumption that Koestner’s decision to report her rape makes their college less desirable. In any case, many people seemed to think Koestner was making much ado about nothing and seeking attention.

Years later, when I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina, Katie Koestner came to speak on campus. I went to her presentation and was very impressed by her. In fact, of all the people in the crowd that evening, I may have been one of the most affected. I am the same age she is, and I remember when her story was daily news. Like Elizabeth Smart, Katie Koestner has turned her victimhood into something positive. She now speaks about rape to college students.

I have been fortunate.  I have never been raped.  However, I have friends and loved ones who have suffered rape.  Without going into too much detail, I want to remind people that it’s not just women who are rape victims.  It happens to men, too.

Rape has ripple effects, just like any violent crime against a person does.  It’s one thing if someone steals your iPod.  It’s quite another if they steal your virginity, your sense of security, or your self worth.  The physical injuries may heal, but the emotional and mental injuries can last a lifetime.  Brock Turner will get his six months in jail, but his victim is likely to spend a lifetime in hell every time she remembers what she’s been through.  That seems terribly unfair to me.

ETA:  Not long ago, I reviewed Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me.  Seccuro was also raped at college.  She was a student at the University of Virginia in the mid 1980s and her case was similarly treated with suspicion and disdain.  I highly recommend her book.  It provides a valuable empathy check for those who want to discount rape.

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book reviews

Repost: My review of Crash Into Me by Liz Seccuro

I am reposting this book review from December 7, 2014, because today’s fresh post mentions Brock Turner and the book is about a woman who was raped at a fraternity party. The review is posted as/is, so keep that in mind as I mention current events as of 2014.

If you’ve been reading the news lately, you may have seen an article that was recently published by Rolling Stone (the article has been taken down as of 2020) about a young woman named “Jackie” who claims that she was gang raped at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia.  I read the article when it was hot off the presses, alerted to it by a friend of mine who is a college professor in Virginia.  Later, the media indicated that Jackie’s story might not have been entirely truthful.  There were discrepancies in her story and it was clear that the reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had not done all of her homework.  She never attempted to get the other side of the story and, instead, just ran with her big, sensational piece that led to fraternity activities at the University of Virginia being temporarily suspended.

While it’s disappointing when scandalous news is reported that turns out to be not quite true, the huge backlash from the original story did get people talking about rapes on college campuses.  That’s how I came to discover Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me

On October 5, 1984, Liz Seccuro, then known as Liz Schimpf, was a first year student at the University of Virginia.  She was very proud to be at UVA, since she was the first person in her family to get to go to college.  With ambitions of becoming a writer, Liz planned to major in English.  At just 17 years old, she was still a minor, but fitting into campus life and making friends.

That October night, Liz’s friend, Jim, asked her to accompany him to a party at a fraternity house.  Jim hoped to rush the fraternity and felt it would look better if he had a girl on his arm, even though he and Liz were strictly friends.  Liz didn’t want to go to the party, but Jim made a strong appeal and she finally consented to go.  While they were at the party, Jim went outside to smoke some marijuana with some of the brothers.  Liz ended up talking to a large stranger who seemed to be hitting on her.

She was drinking her second beer when a brother handed her a very tart glass of spiked punch.  The punch apparently had some type of drug in it that incapacitated Liz, who was soon hustled into the stranger’s bedroom.  The large man started pawing at her, reading her poetry, and finally, getting very physical.  Liz tried to escape, but her purse was locked away in a room.  As she screamed and banged on the locked door trying to get attention, her attacker and another man subdued her and dragged her back into the bedroom, where she was brutally raped.  As it turned out, she was raped not just by the first guy, but by at least two others.

When she regained consciousness hours later, Liz was wrapped in a bloody sheet.  Her attacker invited her to take one of his jackets since it was “chilly” outside.  Then he said he hoped he’d been “a gentleman”. 

Liz tried to get help for herself.  She first went to UVA’s hospital, where she was told she’d need “tests” that they didn’t offer there.  The nurse said she’d have to go to Richmond or Washington, DC to be properly examined.  Later, she went to student health, where she was examined by a nurse.  She spoke to deans, who seemed intent on sweeping the issue under the rug and handling it internally.  Liz was told that UVA preferred to “take care of their own”.  She was also told that the Charlottesville Police Department did not have jurisdiction over the fraternity house, so they would have to deal with University Police.  As it turned out, that was a blatant lie.

Liz stayed in school, while her attacker, who claimed that their sexual encounter had been “consensual”, withdrew from UVA.  Liz joined a sorority, made friends, dated a bit, and eventually graduated.  By September 2005, she was happily married to her second husband and enjoying their young daughter, Ava, and her thriving event planning business, when she got a strange letter in the mail.  It was from her attacker, William Beebe, an alcoholic living in Las Vegas who was trying to work his Alcoholics Anonymous steps by making amends to those he had harmed.  He was apparently tormented by guilt stemming from the attack and was reaching out to his victim, trying to right his wrongs toward her.

The initial letter came as Liz and her family were about to go on a working vacation.  It devastated Liz, who then began an email exchange with William Beebe.  Eventually, as there is no statute of limitations against rape in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Seccuro decided to press charges against Beebe.  Crash Into Me is her riveting, horrifying, yet beautifully written account of her experiences. 

I must admit that I was partly interested in Seccuro’s story because I am from Virginia and attended a college not too far from UVA.  Growing up, UVA was everybody’s dream school.  It’s an excellent public university where the parties are as legendary as its scholarship.  Greek life at UVA, as it was at my own alma mater, is very popular.  So is heavy drinking.  Though I don’t remember any stories about sexual assault at my college, I’m certain they existed.  Perhaps they were even covered up, the same way they were at UVA when Liz Seccuro was a student.  I think it’s shameful that this happened to Liz Seccuro or anyone else, but it’s even more shameful that UVA apparently tried to sweep it under the rug rather than help victims seek justice.

When I was a freshman at what was at that time Longwood College, there was a big story about date rape in the news.  It involved Katie Koestner, who was a freshman at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  At the time, a former friend was attending William & Mary, so I heard all about the local uproar about Katie Koestner from her, especially when she appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine.  Later, Koestner spoke at the University of South Carolina, where I was in graduate school. Koestner’s story was somewhat different than Seccuro’s in that she and her attacker had been out on a date.  In Seccuro’s case, the attacker(s) were total strangers.     

I think Liz Seccuro’s story is very important, especially to high school and college aged women.  While rape is never the victim’s fault, Seccuro’s story does offer a cautionary tale to women about staying safe at social events and being careful about drinking alcohol and being separated from a crowd.  Women shouldn’t have to be so vigilant about their own personal safety, but unfortunately, there are a lot of creeps out there.  And apparently, rape is a big problem at UVA and elsewhere.  Even cultural icons like Bill Cosby, who made a career out of being “fatherly” and is the last person most would think capable of rape, is under fire for allegedly drugging and raping women.

I highly recommend Liz Seccuro’s book, Crash Into Me.   

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