A 21-year-old Florida college student, Joshua Sekulic, is charged with sexually assaulting two women in late October and biting a third in an attempted rape before she escaped. Not helping his case: the recently revealed apology letters he wrote to two of the alleged victims, in which he admits to forcing sex on them.
The letters, so casual and perfunctory, are stomach-churning. In one, Sekulic says he took the invitation into the woman’s apartment as “a sign you wanted to have sex” and continues:
I am sorry for making that assumption. What transpired that night was a mistake. I did not mean to force anything on you or make you do anything you did not want to do. You are a great person and I am sorry for those events and a truely (sic) do wish you the best. Once again, am sorry for the events that transpired and I hope this apology helps you somewhat. And I wish you the best.
In the second, nearly identical letter to another alleged victim, he writes:
I am sorry about the events that happened on the 30th of October I was under the impression you wanted too (sic) have sex. I did not think that you wanted me to stop and I kept going. For that I am sorry and I wish you the best and I hope everything is OK.
While it’s tempting to imagine that Sekulic was writing out of a guilty conscience, the fact that he minimizes his crime, finds ways to blame the women by implying they sent mixed signals, and uses such milquetoast language (“You are a great person”) suggests to me that his main purpose was to discourage the women from reporting the crime by making them doubt themselves and their interpretation of events. It might seem idiotic that he openly admitted to his crimes in this way, but it’s actually a smart risk for him to take. Most rape victims don’t report the crime, so trying to induce doubt and make your victims think you’re really sorry probably does raise the chances you’ll be one of the lucky rapists who doesn’t get turned in.
The letters also highlight something that’s critically important to understand about rape: Rapists plan their crimes, often meticulously, and that plan usually includes strategies to avoid justice. That’s why it doesn’t make a lot of sense to suggest that avoiding drunkenness is an effective way to fight the scourge of rape. That might reduce an individual’s chances of being raped, but it doesn’t do anything to reduce the overall rape rate. Rapists are determined people who put a lot of time and effort into finding victims, raping victims, and trying to use rape myths—including the myth that women are to blame for rape because they drank too much or sent “mixed signals”—to convince the victims not to report and to convince the police not to take accusations seriously. To fight rape, we need to educate the public on how disingenuous and manipulative rapists are, so that we’re less likely to fall for the inevitable excuses that they trot out for their predatory behavior.