According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one of the most widely under-reported crimes today is rape. Traumatized victims often keep quiet about their incidents and many who do prosecute end up unable to face the accused. However, due to the efforts of one Lewiston family, 191 victims and 272 family members have been assisted in their cases.
"(‘It Happened to Alexa') is a national foundation founded here by the Branchini family to honor their daughter," said Ellen Augello, executive director of the It Happened to Alexa Foundation. "The main focus is to encourage them to prosecute. We try to help them stay emotionally stable so they can continue and not be afraid."
The IHTAF has been extraordinarily successful in their cases.
"One statistic that's startling is the conviction rate is 6 percent nationally for anyone to do jail time and with us it's 82 percent," said Augello. IHTAF's convictions include 10 life sentences and an average of 12.5 years in prison. They have helped people in 25 states and 10 foreign countries.
In order to continue their victories, the IHTAF is preparing to host its eighth annual fundraising dinner on Friday, July 23, at the Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston. The event features news commentator and author Wendy Murphy as well as a basket auction and raffle. The raffle item will be two business class tickets to any European destination to which American Airlines flies.
"(We usually have) about 150 people (attend), but it fluctuates," said Augello. "One year we had nearly 180." The IHTAF also holds an annual fundraising dinner in Palm Beach, Fla., that features Donald Trump and Bill O'Reilly.
The IHTAF held a gift-gathering cocktail event on May 27 to kick off the upcoming fundraising dinner.
"We had about 50 people (attend)," said Augello. "We received 27 fully put-together baskets as well as cash donations."The IHTAF has received support nationally for its efforts to convict rapists. With the efforts of foundations such as these, and the support of their communities, victims of rape crimes are more likely to find justice.