On March 15 William Beebe was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of aggravated sexual battery against Liz Seccuro, a woman he had attacked 20 years earlier when both were students at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Beebe, a recovering alcoholic, had written to Seccuro to apologize for the decades-old assault. She contacted the authorities, saying that she had forgiven Beebe but still desired justice.
I asked readers whether Beebe was right to contact Seccuro and whether Seccuro was right to press charges.
"He was right to contact her and try to make amends," writes Kaye Jones of Groves, Texas, "but he was wrong if he thought that this would make it all go away in a second. Choices have consequences."
Pat H. of Ontario sees the apology itself as a second assault.
"His need to atone actually came at the expense of the victim, who was, in effect, retraumatized via his e-mail," Pat H. writes. "It was a dramatic and selfish gesture on his part, and every bit as antagonistic as the original violation."
Finally Liz Seccuro herself checked in.
"Obviously, for me, as the victim, there is only one solution," she writes, "and that was to step forward as a citizen and, based on the laws of this nation, report the crime, even though it had been reported to no avail to university brass."
Check out other opinions at SOUND OFF: MAKING AMENDS or post your own by clicking on "post a comment" or "comments" below. Please indicate who you are and where you're from.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.
Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to email@example.com or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.
I absolutely think that she was right to press charges! "Sorry" is not a get out of jail free card. And I think it is appalling that crimes such as these are swept under the rug by colleges.
Julie, coastal Virginia
The whole ordeal is a tragedy. There would be more than a little interest in seeing someone seek clarification on all of the claims being made Ms. Seccuro. Many of the reports paint different pictures, not all being small details. Well, maybe we can wait for the book...
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