Imagine being raped at the age of 16 by a masked man holding a knife to your throat, a man who threatened to kill your family if you told anyone. Then imagine a lengthy forensics exam, numerous interviews with deputies — one of whom cautioned you about false reports — and finally enduring ten years of silence from police and prosecutors.
M eaghan Ybos endured just such a scenario and used the experience for a higher purpose: to bring attention to the needs of survivors and hold rapists accountable for their crimes.
A graduate of Rhodes College, Ybos was preparing for graduation from Ole Miss law school in 2012, when her mother heard a news report about “the Cordova rapist.” Ybos contacted police and, sure enough, her rape kit was a match to Anthony Alliano. He was later convicted for several rapes, and at his sentencing Ybos was able to speak to him. “I looked him in the eye, ten years after my assault, and felt for the first time that I was no longer being blamed or doubted,” she says. “I described the effects his crime had on me and my family. Then I promised him that I would make Tennessee better at catching rapists. I am immensely proud to have delivered on that promise.” Ybos helped craft state legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations on rape cases filed within three years of the crime; the bill was passed earlier this year.
At the local level, when the enormous backlog of rape kits became public last year, Ybos told her story on TV interviews that were broadcast in other cities. While thanking local leaders for their openness about the backlog, she also urged them toward action and, through radio, print, and social media, she aims to keep the rape kit controversy in the forefront.
Looking back, Ybos says, “It’s always daunting to speak out, but my life for the nine years before that, when I was not speaking out, was infinitely more terrifying. I am driven by the understanding of my extreme luck. Most rape survivors will not experience justice or feel safety. I want to improve the way our systems respond to rape, and my experience and knowledge will allow me to do that.”
Bessie Vance Brooks
Martha Ellen Maxwell