Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Power of Making Amends


In 1984 William Beebe was a 19-year-old student at the University of Virginia. On October 6 he attended a Grateful Dead concert and then returned to his fraternity house where a party was winding down. There had been a lot of drinking in the frat house and a 17-year-old freshman, Liz Schimpf, drank some of the spiked green punch and passed out. Beebe discovered Schimpf passed out and had sex with her.

Twenty-two years later Beebe is a real estate agent in Las Vegas and an alcoholic. He entered Alcoholics Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program with the hope of living a sober and free life. The 9th step in the program calls for a person to make amends for their past deeds that have hurt and wounded others. Beebe recalled the night in question at his frat house and decided to contact Schimpf to seek her forgiveness.

Schimpf is now Liz Seccuro, a wife and mother who lives in Connecticut. Liz had reported the rape in 1984 both to the Charlottesville police and to school officials. At the time Beebe claimed it was consensual sex and both authorities said that nothing could be done. After several email exchanges in recent months between Seccuro and Beebe, Liz contacted the Charlottesville police to see if anything could be done now that she had Beebe’s confession in writing. There is no statute of limitations in Virginia and a warrant for Beebe’s arrest was issued.

As the case has had further investigation it seems that more than one man assaulted Seccuro on the night in question. Tuesday Beebe pleaded guilty to sexual assault and offered his assistance in prosecuting others that were involved.

The casual reader of this story may conclude, “Wow, it doesn’t pay to confess your sins and try to make things right.” One may be tempted to think it is better to live a life of secrecy and pretense. After all, the world now knows what Beebe did and he’s likely to go to jail for it even though it was 22 years ago and he was trying to make it right.

I don’t know if William Beebe is a Christian and I don’t know how he feels about how his effort to make amends has turned out. I do know that he was right to make amends.

The 12 Steps of AA are actually based on biblical principles. Making amends is something that Christ calls for all of His followers to do. Several years ago I was having a time of prayer and I sensed that God was calling me to make amends. In high school I had done some shoplifting, stealing to be more accurate. And in my prayers I was sensing God leading me to make amends, including making restitution for everything I had stolen.

In my prayer I asked God how to go about this. Over the next few minutes God brought to my memory everything I had ever stolen, how much it cost and from what store it had been taken. I literally wrote it all down. I spent most of an entire week going to each retailer, confessing my sin (which had been a few years prior), detailing what I took and how much it was, and offering to do whatever they wanted in order to make it right.

I didn’t know how that was going to turn out. I didn’t know if some would want to arrest and prosecute me. The short of the story is that I didn’t have any legal ramifications but I did pay most of them some amount of money.

There have been many powerful benefits to my making amends. I’ll just mention two:
1. I’m a free man. When I seek to be in God’s presence I am never tyrannized by the accusations of the evil one or of my own conscience. I’ve been forgiven and freed.
2. I’m a clean man. Because I am committed to make right any wrong I commit, there are a lot of wrongs I never commit because I don’t want to go through the pain of making them right. Amends is a great deterrent to wrong behaviors.

Finally, back to Liz Seccuro, she has established a non-profit organization called Stars Survivors to offer assistance to other women who have suffered from sexual assault and rape. I pray God’s blessings on both Seccuro (her healing and wholeness) and Beebe (his freedom from alcohol and his past) as they live promising lives for the future.

5 comments:

Georgia Tech Rape Victim said...

I should be as fortunate as Liz Seccuro in that my rapist confessed of drug-rape decades ago. Let me tell you a story:

A string of skillfully executed rapes occurred in the early 1960s by an upperclassman living on fraternity row at Georgia Tech where the bond of Greek brotherhood remains every bit as unshakable today as it did in the sixties. Like Seccuro, I was a virgin. It was set up in advance (twice!) by a person I trusted. I was drugged. My life was derailed, but I would not tell (jeeze, it was the "sixties"). I could not even bring myself to confront the rapist. Nobody can imagine what I went through ... depression, repressed memories, flashbacks for 43 years. This monster belongs behind bars for the malevolent tactics he used to dehumanize me and other unsuspecting women. Instead, he golfs, plays gin and sips scotch.

As with any rapist, lies the incessant need to overpower, but "JD"'s single most compelling reason for the degradation of women:

"the constant and overwhelming struggle to convince himself that he liked girls, and to prove his masculinity to the brotherhood"

Aww, the good ol' days in Atlanta! Dodd Stadium, the Varsity Drive-In, Hank & Jerry's, Witts Inn, Aunt Fanny's Cabin. Such innocence. Date rape drugs didn't exist? Wrong! Anyone can contact me at georgia_tech_rape@yahoo.com.

Scott Brewer said...

Thanks for taking a moment to share your story. I know that there are many of you that have experienced horrific pain and abuse. I can only imagine the wounding you've experienced in body and soul. And in this moment I pray that God would touch you in a deep and healing way.

Let me restate the message of my post--I believe it is right to try and make amends for past wrongs and sins, even it if means you pay a heavy price for doing so. I pray that the perpetrators you referred to would take steps to accept their responsibility.

Though you were not treated so, you are a precious treasure.

Georgia Tech Rape Victim said...

Scott, you touched my heart with your very kind follow-up to my post. God bless, and thanks for providing an opportunity for me to express the pain.

Anonymous said...

I empathize with anyone who has been raped and commend Liz Schimpf Seccuro for her courage and her work. I am wondering though why we deal with the effects afterwards and why as a society we are not pro-active. Rape is a horrible tragedy, no doubt. My daughter lives in a sorority where they are taught to watch over another " drunk " sister. That is all good and well, but what about the teaching to warn about being in a frat of drunken, hormonal young men. It is as if the message is play with fire , just don't get burned. Why is Greek life not challenged on campuses? There could be so much good that comes out of Greek life. In the light of day, they portray the good. After dark and behind closed doors, there is a secret, hidden life that is kept secret. Thank you, Liz, for bringing into the light the truth about Greek life. You address the rape, but I believe a bigger issue needs to be brought forth.

Emily Thompson said...

I agree that we ought to be dealing with rape from a proactive standpoint, from the question, "How can we treat the next victim better, so that she will be more likely to tell law enforcement and to have a rape kit made?"

I can tell you how.

We ought to be employing common-sense measures like:
1) Student health centers at universities ought to be legally obligated to have rape kits available in their health centers. If you can have a Pap smear done on campus, you ought to be able to do your rape kit there too. Many college students do not have cars; transportation and confidentiality can be issues. It's easy to shrug it off if someone sees you walking in or out of the student health center. If someone sees you at the hospital, people will talk.
2) A woman who reports a rape, whether an on-campus rape or an off-campus rape, ought to have a legal right to make her statement to a female police officer. I had to make my statement to a male police officer once, and he was all but abusive.

If we treated the women who report their rapes decently, more women would report. As more women reported, we would ferret the serial rapists, at least, I hope, out of society. We would have a safer world.

Thank you for writing this post.