In September 1999, Tom and Stacey Branchini drove their daughter, Alexa, to Boston, Massachusetts to begin her freshman year at Boston University. The last thing they expected was to receive a call ten days later to inform them that their daughter had been raped in her dormitory and was in a Boston hospital.
Alexa reported the attack immediately to the police, and the rapist was apprehended before he even had a chance to leave campus. Alexa was alive. She was safe. However, her life was changed forever.
Alexa is one of the few rape survivors whose ordeal actually resulted in a trial and the conviction of her assailant. She withstood repeated attempts by the defense team to delay the trial, as a tactic to break her will. Her family remained by her side, both psychologically and physically, flying back and forth from their home in Buffalo, New York to Boston to support her throughout the grueling trial. In total, the Branchini family spent 27 days in Boston for the trial and Alexa persevered. The man who raped her was sentenced to 40-45 years in prison without parole.
The Branchini family could not imagine their daughter having to endure the agony of a trial alone. Returning to the crime scene, reliving the ordeal in order to prepare for trial, then actually being in the courtroom with the man who assaulted her are all too much for anyone to face alone. Tom and Stacey remained by Alexa’s side only because they could afford the travel and lodging costs incurred during an out-of-town trial. After her long and traumatic trial ended, Tom and Stacey realized that many families do not have the financial ability to do so. Not wanting a lack of funds to prevent another rape victim from prosecuting his or her attacker, Thomas and Stacey Branchini co-founded the It Happened to Alexa Foundation (IHTAF).
The It Happened to Alexa Foundation (IHTAF) assists rape victims and their families by easing the financial burden they face while traveling to attend the criminal trial. IHTA provides financial, emotional and advocacy assistance to victims and their families during each stage of the criminal justice process, from pre-trial to closing arguments. It also works to promote respect and attitudes against sexual violence through educational outreach targeting children enrolled in elementary, middle and high schools throughout Western New York.