Editorial Note: The Daily Beacon offices received this anonymous letter by mail Tuesday, and the editorial staff elected to publish it. This decision is a break from our typical policy, which requires a byline in all letters to the editor.
The gravity, relevance and justification for anonymity that this letter offers factored heavily into our decision to run it, especially considering the current controversy surrounding Sex Week. And though we admit that the letter could be fabricated, as there is not enough information to confirm its contents, we maintain that the consequences described are real consequences, ones that we think students should be more directly aware of. Be it fact or fiction, the letter accurately details the ramifications of conduct common on our campus and college campuses across the country.
Whether this man really experienced these events is up to you, the reader, to decide for yourself. But the letter's depiction of the repercussions of unprotected sex is truthful, and the editorial staff of the Daily Beacon believes that the letter's underlying message is vitally important to the college community that we serve.
What follows is the transcription of the letter as we received it:
To: UT Daily Beacon
This is a letter in support of Sex Week. I don't know if you will publish it. For obvious reasons it must be anonymous.
I wish we had Sex Week when I was a student ten years ago, although some of us were so headstrong that perhaps we would have paid no attention. But here is my story as a warning to others not to follow my unfortunate course.
In the fall semester, my date to a frat party was a sophomore, although I was a senior. Alcohol flowed and I encouraged my underage date to consume a lot until she was willing to do almost anything. In my room, I/we had unprotected sex although I don't know if she was sober enough to know what we were doing. A couple of months later, she revealed to me and to her parents that she was pregnant. Her parents were indignant that their "good" daughter, whom they naively assumed was a virgin, had been raped. Her family hired a "well-known lawyer" I had no excuse since I had provided the alcohol and had encouraged her to drink too much. I was convicted and sentenced to a minimum of six years in prison, with possibility of parole. Thus my university career ended within a few days of what would have been my graduation. The pregnancy ended in an abortion "to protect the innocence" of the girl (whom I have forgiven, but I don't know if she has ever forgiven me).
You can imagine how this has affected my relationship to my parents, my two brothers, my sister, and everyone I thought were friends. My dreams were gone; their dreams had evaporated.
But this was only the beginning of my nightmare. There is no pleasure for a 21-year-old fellow to be incarcerated with thugs who aren't homosexual but establish their dominance by "initiating" (i.e., forcibly sodomizing them) newcomers into submission. After several appeals to the administration, I was moved to a different unit where the inmates were not violent.
I had never been a violent person and became a model inmate, then a trustee. At the end of my six years, my first application for parole was denied. After more than seven years, I finally received parole, but my parole would continue for ten years. As a result, I must report to my parole officer every week (I can now do this occasionally by telephone). For the first two years of parole, I was forbidden to leave Knox County without permission. No more holidays with the family at Hilton Head or elsewhere. Even now, I must report to my parole office when I leave Knox County to go to Gatlinburg or Nashville, or anywhere.
For the rest of my life, unless laws change, I am a pariah because I must register as a "sex offender." Where do I live? I live at home with my family because no landlord will rent an apartment to a registered sex offender - they fear liability if I "cannot control myself." If I had enough money to try and buy a house, neighbors would immediately be notified that their new neighbor is a registered sex offender. I am forever an outcast, a leper. It is impossible to get a date; I dare not do anything illegal such as solicit a prostitute; therefore I must resort to "auto" -technique to relieve "tension."
Convicted felons in Tennessee are denied the right to vote, but on release from prison they may request the Board of Probation and Parole for restoration of voting rights WITH THE EXCEPTION of violent offenders such as those convicted of murder, rape, and treason. Unless the law changes, I will never again be permitted to vote.
I am older and wiser at age 31. Nothing can restore what I lost in years, in getting a decent job, in exercising normal "rights" which everyone takes for granted. My recommendation "Be Smart; Don't Be Stupid." The cost-benefit ratio is horrible. It plagues you for the rest of your life.
Tuesday, the Daily Beacon ran a letter – written by an anonymous convicted rapist – in support of Sex Week. In the editorial note explaining why the staff elected to break Daily Beacon policy and run a letter to the editor without a byline, we wrote that "the letter's depiction of the repercussions of unprotected sex is truthful, and the editorial staff of The Daily Beacon believes that the letter's underlying message is vitally important to the college community that we serve."
The underlying message that we referred to was two-fold. We interpreted the author's intent to explain that: 1) non-consensual sex is a felony and 2) unprotected sex can lead to pregnancy and require decisions regarding that pregnancy.
To clarify: the Hilltopics Student Handbook clearly states on p. 39 that "sexual assault is defined as any sexual act or attempt to engage in any sexual act with another person without the consent of the other person, or in a circumstance in which the person is unable to give consent due to age, disability or alcohol/chemical or other impairment." In the letter, the author explains that he had sex with a sophomore student after she had consumed "a lot" of alcohol, to the point where he was not certain if she was sober enough to know what they were doing. This act was an act of rape. Throughout the rest of the letter, the author explains how he was convicted of rape, imprisoned for seven years and now lives a life as a sex offender.
The editorial staff apologizes for any perceived commiseration with or support of this man's story; we do not pity him, but we do see precautionary value in his narrative. Furthermore, we erroneously assumed an inherent lesson against non-consensual sex, failing to explicitly demonstrate that the events he described were more a result of his decision to rape a female student than they were a result of unprotected sex.
We hope this letter shows the student body that any question of consent renders a sexual act an act of assault, regardless of alcohol. The woman in the story was a victim of rape because rape does not require someone saying "no" – consent requires someone clearly and unequivocally saying "yes."
If this letter encourages any victim to report sexual assault, or any student to use contraceptive protection, then we believe that the decision to run it is justified.
We also encourage anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of sexual assault to visit the Safety, Environment and Education Center's resources at www.seecenter.utk.edu/assault_resources.php.