She was raped at knifepoint at age 16, but brave enough to endure the uncomfortable and intrusive process of giving police in Memphis evidence through a rape kit.
For Meaghan Ybos' bravery, that rape kit sat untested for nine years and her rapist lived freely.
"I feel like I lost nine years of my life," said Ybos, 27, who gave The Tennessean permission to use her name and share her story. "I'm lucky that I didn't kill myself. I didn't want to live the life that I was living."
Across the state, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says about 20,000 rape kits were never submitted for testing by police. In November in Memphis, police revealed that up to 12,000 kits had gone untested, some dating back 30 years.
Each untested kit represents a potential rapist walking free, a potential victim without justice.
Ybos and Tennessee Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, have been fighting to eliminate such backlogs. Parkinson has legislation pending that would force police departments to forward all new rape kits to the TBI within 10 days. The TBI would have to analyze those kits within six months.
But a budget passed by the state Thursday didn't include any money for backlog reduction, and time is running out at the Capitol.
"They've got all of those rape kits that are backlogged and they're just sitting there, and you've got all these women who are victims," Parkinson said. "It's a travesty."
The TBI says police and prosecutors are responsible for submitting rape kits for analysis, and that wait times for results range from 24 to 33 weeks.
"All of these kits have been accumulating in property rooms across the state for decades, not at TBI's facilities," said Josh DeVine, spokesman for TBI. "Assault survivors have every reason to ask tough questions right now, as do those of us in law enforcement. All of us want justice and closure for these types of crimes."
No local backlog
Metro Police transports rape kits to the TBI at least twice a week, said spokesman Don Aaron. As a result, Nashville doesn't have a backlog, he said. The department is considering analyzing 338 rape kits that can't be used as evidence because victims recanted or didn't want to prosecute.Those results still could lead to future prosecutions.
"We are working on a plan to have these kits tested by a combination of a private lab and the TBI," Aaron said.
Metro also is gearing up its new 47,000-square-foot crime lab, which late this year will begin processing rape kits and other DNA evidence, allowing even quicker turnarounds on evidence.
Backlog lets rapist walk free for years
Ybos has been telling her story to help push Parkinson's legislation and eliminate the state's massive backlog. She came home May 19, 2003, to find a masked man in her home with a knife. He raped and threatened to kill her.
Ybos did what she was supposed to. She called police, though she said they didn't believe her. Then she provided evidence for a rape kit.
Years passed. Then, she heard news of a possible serial rapist in the Cordova area of Shelby County, where she lived. She wondered if it could have been her attacker. She called police and started asking questions, assuming that the kit she provided a decade earlier already had been analyzed.
"When I called them to look at my cold case, they said, 'Well, we'll send in your rape kit to be tested,' " Ybos said. "I said, 'What the hell do you mean you'll send it in to be tested?' "
The results came back positive. Other women came forward.
And on March 26, 2013, serial rapist Anthony Alliano was sentenced to 178 years in prison for raping Ybos and six other women. He'll be eligible for parole in 2076, when he is 106.
"I can't even put words to it, it's completely different now to know that society knows that man is a rapist," Ybos said. "I can now live my life without being in fear all the time."
Ybos and two other victims are suing Memphis, Shelby County and several officials in federal court for not testing their rape kits. She also has helped to get a law passed that removed time limits on the prosecution of certain rape cases, so long as the crime is reported within three years.
Backlog legislation runs into problems
But the legislation, aimed to eliminate future rape kit backlogs but not deal with kits already waiting to be tested, is on "life support," Parkinson said. He said other lawmakers are balking — quietly, of course — at the proposed cost, estimated at $10.4 million up front and $2.1 million every year thereafter.
Sen. Mark Norris, the Collierville Republican who co-sponsored the bill, said the passing of Gov. Bill Haslam's state budget on Thursday essentially killed it.
"This $12 million was not funded in the budget," he said.
A last-second amendmenton Thursday by Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, would have set aside $2 million to at least start working on that backlog. Norris called that measure "half baked" because the state doesn't yet know the full extent of the backlog.
The amendment failed.
Norris said the state will be doing an inventory of Tennessee's rape kit backlog over the next several months.
"There are a lot of moving pieces and it's a problem that's not limited to Memphis," he said. "We don't know the scope of the problem in Tennessee."
Parkinson warned that the cost for not tackling those backlogs will be more victims such as Ybos, who lose parts of their lives to such horrors.
"An experience like that is horrendous and it's a life-changer," he said. "You have to ask yourself, what is the value of the life of our citizens?"