Sex assault survivors hope to change law to spare victims from reliving pain

Local News

Twenty-seven years ago, Ramona Bantle-Fahy testified in court against the man who kidnapped and sexually assaulted her.

She won the battle, but not without the emotional scars she carries with her.

Bantle-Fahy was attacked, raped, and kidnapped in Sardinia in 1992. It’s been two years since her attacker, convicted rapist David A. Graczyk, became eligible for parole.

He was denied in 2017.

Today – because he’s served his required 25-year minimum sentence – he’s eligible for parole every two years.

“People say, ‘Well you know, he raped you. Yeah, he did 25 years. Shouldn’t he have learned his lesson?’ No,” Bantle-Fahy said.

At first, Ramona didn’t want charges like rape and sodomy so publicly attached to her name. But after testifying in the 1993 trial that the local news covered, she found strength.

“I want to be the voice for other women,” she said.

Graczyk’s next shot at freedom happens toward the end of February. Bantle-Fahy wants to keep him in prison, just like she did two years ago.

But she also doesn’t want to go through this every 24 months, nor does she want other sexual assault victims to have to go through it either.

Bantle-Fahy sat down with News 4’s Jacquie Walker a little more than two years ago as Graczyk’s first 25 years in prison came to an end, and for the first time since she testified in court in 1993, Bantle-Fahy retold the moment she thought she was going to die.

“I felt nothing during the interview, but that evening, and for three days, I laid on the floor crying my eyes out because all that awfulness came back,” she said.

That late-2016 News 4 interview caught the attention of Jacqueline Dias.

“She was talking about the knife, and she was talking about getting hit in the face, and it was like living it…I was reliving it all over again,” Dias said.

Dias recognized Graczyk on TV immediately. She says he attacked her in 1980, when Dias was living with Graczyk’s sister in Cheektowaga.

She says he broke into her apartment, or got the key from a family member, and jumped on her while she was sleeping.

“I couldn’t move, and he said ‘Don’t scream, I have a knife.’ And I was lying on my stomach, belly down on the living room floor,” Dias recalls.

Dias was able to kick him off of her. Graczyk lost his balance, and didn’t come after her when she left the house.

She saw that Graczyk was arrested in 1992, and she watched Bantle-Fahy testify during the trial the following year, but Dias didn’t speak up back then.

“In 1992, I did watch it on television when it happened to Ramona. I was married with two kids, and I wanted to come forward, but I couldn’t because I was afraid of what would happen to my children,” Dias said.

Something in her changed when she saw Bantle-Fahy again in 2017 when Graczyk first came up for parole.

“I knew that I needed to do something, so I saw the segment with Ramona on, and she was looking for other people to come forward, and I said that’s what I need to do.”

So two years ago, Dias got in touch with Bantle-Fahy, who now have each other. Together, they’re on a mission to help others.

“I don’t want him out in five years. I don’t want him out in 50 years,” Bantle-Fahy said.

They continue to fight to keep Graczyk behind bars, but this time, they are also working to make a legislative change.

“The way that it’s set up in New York State, [parole] is every two years,” she explained. “And we’re hoping to work with some lawmakers to push that from two years to five years for murder, rape and child molestation.”

They’re working with Olean Assemblyman Joseph Giglio.

Giglio says the bill has passed through the senate before, but never his own chamber, so they’re trying something new.

“Ramona had said that she and Jacquie would like to come to Albany at some point to do a press conference or testify, and tell us their plight,” Giglio said.

Giglio says the bill needs public attention for it to gain momentum. The Child Victims’ Act is a recent example of how public pressure helped pass a bill.

“There is not a lot of focus right now in Albany – and there hasn’t been for a while on victims’ rights – and it’s more tailored toward to those who have been convicted of crimes who are serving sentences right now,” Giglio said.

Graczyk served 25 years at Attica’s maximum security prison. In 2017, he was transferred to Groveland Correctional Facility in Livingston County. His next parole hearing is scheduled toward the end of February.

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