Justice Department Honors Kentucky Sexual Assault Survivor and Activist
Today, the Department of Justice recognized Michelle L. Kuiper, who is a sexual assault survivor and activist, with the Special Courage Award for her work on behalf of victims of sexual assault. This honor is awarded to victims or survivors who exhibit exceptional perseverance and determination in dealing with his or her own victimization, or who acted bravely to prevent a victimization. She was honored during the annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
"In my nearly 40 years in and around law enforcement, I have found that some of the strongest and most inspiring people I have met are survivors of crime. Michelle Brooks Kuiper is no exception,” said Attorney General Sessions. “She has turned the grief from her own personal tragedy into a motivation to help others, resulting in legal reforms that better serve victims of sexual assault. Her perseverance has improved the lives of survivors in Kentucky and Indiana, and her story will inspire countless others throughout our country.”
Kuiper was a freshman in college when she was taken off her front porch by a stranger and sexually assaulted under a neighbor’s deck. It took 17 years for her rapist to be tried and convicted of this crime, in addition to three other assaults, resulting from a DNA match.
Kuiper became an activist shortly after her assault. She strives to support others who have been sexually assaulted by advocating for legislative change. Her efforts led to the passage of six new laws in three years. One of these laws 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, Kuiper helped Indiana pass a law mandating the collection of DNA for all felony arrests and requiring the state to test its backlog of rape kits.
“We are grateful for Ms. Kuiper’s dedication to empowering sexual assault victims,” said Director Darlene Hutchinson of the Office for Victims of Crime. “The Department of Justice is proud to honor her for her remarkable contributions and for her commitment to justice for all individuals victimized by crime.”
During today’s ceremony, the Justice Department recognized a dozen individuals and organizations for their outstanding efforts on behalf of victims of crime. Awardees were selected from public nominations in ten categories.
Each year in April, the Department of Justice observes National Crime Victims’ Rights Week by taking time to honor victims of crime and those who advocate on their behalf. In addition, the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s Offices organize events to honor the victims and advocates, as well as bring awareness to services available to victims of crime. This year’s observance takes place April 8-14, with the theme Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims.
The Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime, within the Office of Justice Programs, leads communities across the country in observing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week each year. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in 1981 to bring greater sensitivity to the needs and rights of victims of crime.
The Office of Justice Programs provides innovative leadership to federal, state, local, and tribal justice systems, by disseminating state-of-the art knowledge and practices across America, and providing grants for the implementation of these crime fighting strategies. Because most of the responsibility for crime control and prevention falls to law enforcement officers in states, cities, and neighborhoods, the federal government can be effective in these areas only to the extent that it can enter into partnerships with these officers. More information about the Office of Justice Programs and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov. More information about Crime Victim’s Rights Week can be found at https://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw/.