Two victims of convicted serial rapist Anthony Alliano went public last week in hopes of putting a human face to their lawsuit against Memphis and Shelby County agencies for a long delay in testing their rape kits.
Meaghan Ybos and Madison Graves met with reporters and photographers in an open news conference after some Memphis media outlets had excluded their names from coverage of their lawsuit that was filed earlier this month. The names of sexual assault victims are often withheld from news stories to protect the victims' privacy.
Ybos and Graves are two of the three victims named in the lawsuit that is seeking "redress for special damages" since the victims say they have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder and lived in perpetual fear for nearly a decade until Alliano was finally arrested in May 2012.
All three of the victims in the new lawsuit gave body fluid samples and DNA evidence to investigators after they were raped, according to the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The evidence was placed in sexual assault kits and transported to city and county agents for testing, the suit says. But the local governments "failed to timely submit, responsibly handle, and make due diligence" on about 12,000 such rape kits.
Graves said Wednesday she wanted to "be the shining light for other girls who were too scared to come forward."
"I want the kits tested, and I want girls [who have been sexually assaulted] to know that it's okay and that you're not disgusting and you're still a human," she said.
Ybos was assaulted on May 19, 2003, and Graves was assaulted two days after that on May 21st. Ybos was 16 at the time, and Graves was 12. Their descriptions to police about their attacks were "the exact same," Ybos said, even drawing the same knife that Alliano used in the attacks. They have even been told they look alike, they said, both of them with long, dark hair and slender builds.
The suit was filed last week and no court date has been set, according to the victims' attorney, Daniel Lofton. He said the victims are suing for monetary damages but have not yet attached a dollar figure to the suit.
Ybos and Graves said they hope the suit sheds light on the systemic failures that allowed their attacker to remain at large for nearly 10 years. They also hope the suit changes the procedures that local law enforcement uses in future sexual assault investigations.
"If you report your assault to law enforcement and you don't get the result that you think you should, don't think it's because of you; it's because the system is that way," Ybos said. "It's not your fault, and it's not anything you've done or anything because of you. We hope some change can come from this disaster."
Another lawsuit regarding the untested rape kits was filed against local government agencies this past December. That federal, class-action lawsuit was filed by an unnamed Memphis woman who said she was raped in 2001, and her identity will never be revealed. That suit says local law enforcement must test all rape kits. The new suit filed by Ybos and Graves takes a less extreme position.
"We don't expect you to solve all crimes, and we don't expect you to have a perfect system. That's a fantasy," said Lofton. "But if any of these cases could have been effectively prioritized, it should have been this one."