In October 1984 I harmed you. I can scarcely begin tounderstand the degree to which, in your eyes, my behaviour has affected you in its wake. Still, I stand prepared to hear from you about just how, and in what ways you've been affected; and to begin to set right the wrong I've done, in any way you see fit. Most sincerely yours, Will Beebe
In 1984, I arrived, like any other student, at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. An onlychild, I was the first in my family to attend college. My parents were thrilled, although the university was far from our home town, a suburb of New York City. I had graduated top of my high school class and was prepared to make something great of myself. But those hopes and dreams were dashed about five weeks later.
A dorm friend, desperately wanting to join a fraternity, begged me to be his dateto a party at Phi Kappa Psi, a massive pile of Georgian bricks and white columns at the head of fraternity row. Reluctantly, I climbed out of my sweatpants and donned a denim miniskirt, long-sleeved crew-neck sweater, navy blue flats and a pearl necklace. And then we set off on our five-minute walk with a few other friends from our dorm.
We arrived to the din of a party in full swing – a band,kegs of beer, jubilant collegians. Nothing out of the ordinary, but for the fact that my date was gay and, back in 1984, being gay was not as openly accepted as it is today. He needed to "pass", so I stuck to his side as we toured the property and listened to the brothers talk about tradition, academia and the honour that was bestowed upon the lucky few who would be chosen as Phi Kappa Psibrothers.
We got separated. My date was invited to smoke pot with some brothers. I had never done so, nor did I want to start. I decided to wait in the second-floor living room, thinking I'd be safer there than walking home alone. I sat on a sofa near a makeshift bar where two brothers, acting as bartenders, assured me that my friend would be back soon. And would I like a drink?
Not wanting toseem square, I said yes.
"It's our house special – here you go," said one brother, offering a green drink in a plastic tumbler.
"Thank you," I said. And sat back down, sipping my drink, waiting for my date to return. People milled about, greeting one another and dancing.
"When do you think my date is coming back?" I asked no one in particular.
"Oh, he'll be here in a few minutes. Justrelax. You're fine here," said another brother.
Suddenly I noticed something was wrong. I could not feel my hands or feet; my arms and legs followed in numbness. What was happening? I started to panic. At that point, a very tall, owlish-looking man with glasses appeared, asking where I was from, what was my major, where did I live? I answered his questions perfunctorily, begging off that I wassoon going home as I was tired. I had no idea what time it was or how long I had been there.
He grabbed my arm and said loudly, "I have something to show you!"
"No!" I said. I couldn't really walk. And I had no interest in what this stranger wanted to show me.
He dragged me down the hall like a rag doll, into a room, grabbed me around the waist, sat me on his lap and began reading to mefrom a volume of poetry. I squirmed, trying to set myself free. He stuck his tongue in my ear and told me to settle down.
Adrenaline kicked in and I freed myself, running into the hall, screaming. At that precise moment, the music was turned up loud and one of the guys from the bar calmly walked over to me, picked me up like a sack of ashes and deposited me back into the waiting arms of the...