Book Review: Crash Into Me: A Survivor's Search for Justice by Liz Seccuro (Review by Donna Barrow-Green)
In 1984, Liz Seccuro a freshman at University of Virginia was drugged and raped at a fraternity house party. She woke the next morning , bruised and battered. The house was eerily empty, an unusual occurrence in a busy fraternity house the morning after a party. In physical pain and shock Seccuro walked form the fraternity house to the university hospital. She was told they did not do rape examinations and would have to travel to a larger city. When Seccuro went to the leaders of the University she was brushed off, lied to, and turned away. Her story, despite thirty years passing, Seccuro’s story sounds very much like college campus rape stories in the news today.
What made Seccuro’s memoir so interesting to me was that the story of her rape was suddenly in her life again 25 years later. Like Seccuro I was raped as a young woman. I moved on and created a wonderful life for myself. I got married, went to graduate school, had children, and am a writer. Then I was called several months ago out of the blue and told by the San Francisco Police Department that there had been a DNA hit on the man who raped me. Some twenty five years after being raped the SFPD sent my untested rape kit to the lab and a serial rapist was identified. When I found Crash Into Me, I identified with Seccuro. I related to her experiences as a young, ambitious, independent woman coming of age in the 1980s.
Seccuro found out about the man who attacked and sexually assaulted her when he sent her a letter in the mail twenty five years after raping her. The letter stated he was in Alcoholics Anonymous and he had reached the step where he had to take responsibility for harm he’d caused authors. In the letter he apologized for harming Securo. As she acted and made decisions those first weeks after the letter, I recognized the subtle rising of PTSD. The blinding effect on one’s present life. Not a sudden darkness, but a tunnel-visioned preoccupation with it. She exchanged a few letters with the rapist but it became clear that he was self-centered and unable to take responsibility for what he’d done. His version of the truth retreated back to subtle but none-the-less ugly misogyny. It also occurred to Seccuro that this man had her home address. He could have emailed and for a rapist to send a victim a letter at their home has the chilling implication of threat.
Because there is no statute of limitations on rape in Virginia, Seccuro was able to prosecute. She went through with it knowing it would disrupt her family and her life. Because she had been drugged her memories of that night were mainly disjointed sounds and sights. The one thing she’d always wondered was whether there had been more than one rapist. She had a memory of being shuffled into a room and voices. As the trial proceeds the rapist remains antagonistic towards Seccuro and his defense attorney employs underhanded tactics to trigger Seccuro’s trauma and challenge her credibility. This included a long back and forth about the blood on her legs. Recalling the blood triggered PTSD in Seccuro and set her off balance during her testimony.
Despite the rapists confession and shocking new information about the rape, the defense makes a plea bargain and the rapist served less than 6 months in jail.
You can find Crash Into Me: A Survivor’s Search for Justice on amazon
and more about Liz Seccuro on her website
REVIEWER'S NOTE: It was hard for me to read Crash Into Me. It was a compelling and well-written book. Seccuro is a strong role-model and has used this experience to bring awareness to the issue of campus rape. It was hard for me because I had hope through her story that there would be justice not more blame and trauma. I don’t know how we endure the things we do as women.