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Michelle L. Kuiper

2018 Special Courage Award | National Crime Victims’ Service Awards
Watch the tribute video

Michelle L. Kuiper | Special Courage Award
Kentucky Association Sexual Assault Programs Speakers Bureau
Louisville, Kentucky

In 1994, Michelle L. Kuiper was a college freshman in Kentucky when she was taken off her front porch by a stranger, dragged between two homes, and sexually assaulted under a neighbor’s deck. It took 17 years for Ms. Kuiper’s perpetrator to be tried for and convicted of his crimes, as a result of a Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) DNA match to three other rapes. 

Ms. Kuiper’s passion for ending sexual assault has allowed her to graciously share her story with many organizations, businesses, colleges, and military and other groups. She strives to support others who have been sexually assaulted through legislative changes. Ms. Kuiper garnered support from associations and legislators to pass six bills in 3 years. One required Kentucky to test its backlog of approximately 3,000 rape kits, and another is changing the way Kentucky handles rape kits in the future by tracking all kits. 

In 2017, Ms. Kuiper, along with Jayann Sepich and DNAsaves.org, helped Indiana pass a law mandating the collection of DNA for all felony arrests. She also helped Indiana pass legislation to test its backlog. 

Ms. Kuiper is a co-chair of an advisory Survivors Council established by Kentucky’s Attorney General, Andy Beshear, to advise and assist the Attorney General’s Office on matters related to the needs of diverse victims of crime, including victim-centered, effective, and responsive awareness activities, training efforts, publications, policy, and legislative initiatives. 

Ms. Kuiper is also actively involved in the nonprofit Joyful Heart Foundation—whose founder and president is actress Mariska Hargitay, known as Detective Olivia Benson on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit—with the mission to “transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse; support survivors’ healing; and end this violence forever.” Ms. Kuiper played a small role in an upcoming HBO documentary, produced by Ms. Hargitay, titled I Am Evidence. 

Ms. Kuiper received the 2017 Sexual Assault Awareness Month Award from the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, Inc. 

Ms. Kuiper has passionately accomplished all of this while reclaiming her education, which was stolen by her offender. She attends the University of Kentucky while continuing to help others around the country.

2018 National Crime Victims' Service Awards Tribute Video

Watch this video to learn more about Michelle L. Kuiper, 2018 recipient of the Special Courage Award.