FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - "I always feel like it happened to my body and not my soul, and that's how I survived it." In 1994, Michelle Kuiper, a freshman at the University of Louisville, was pulled off the porch of her Cherokee Park home, dragged under the neighbor's deck, and sexually assaulted. "Even then, I kind of went to another place, I think, to survive that moment."
"I was dirty. I was filthy. I had leaves in my hair," she recalled. She ran to her neighbor and friend, and fortunately, a fourth year med student. "God sent her to me because she knew what to do." Police were called and a rape kit was collected.
17 years later police found a DNA match. Curtis Boyd was was convicted and sentence to 33 years in prison. "I was lucky all the way around. Many are not so lucky. You're talking about 97 percent never see a day in jail," Kuiper said.
Boyd's conviction freed Kuiper's story.
"How can we take that horrible, horrific experience and re-frame it to say 'This should never happen to anyone, ever,'" Kuiper told WKYT's Miranda Combs from the state capital in Frankfort. For the past few years, the capital halls have become a second home, advocating for fellow survivors and tougher laws to protect sexual assaults from ever happening. "I think it's put a face on it, to humanize it. To show that it can happen to anyone."
Kuiper is proud of the progress Kentucky is making. After a startling audit in 2015 that found more than 3,000 untested kits in Kentucky, the state landed funding to get them worked. Almost 2700 tests have been completed, resulting in 103 DNA hits.
Kuiper said the next step is requiring DNA swabs at felony arrests, like 32 other states have already done. "If we're not going to swab for that profile, then there are going to be many serial rapists like mine who are on the streets and they are never caught."
State Senator Whitney Westerfield was the first to introduce a law that would require DNA swabs at felony arrests in 2013. It failed to become law, but he's continued to support it for the past three years. "There's a big brother fear that lots of legislators have and that hasn't gone away. In fact, it's probably gotten worse," he told Combs.
Kuiper will continue to advocate for sexual assault survivors saying, "If nobody talks about it, and we all just keep it in the dark and act like it's not happening, then nothing is every going to be done about it," she said.