Every two hours, someone in our commonwealth becomes a victim to forcible sexual assault or robbery. If you do the math, that comes out to 4,380 people per year. In 1994, as a freshman in college, I became one of those statistics.
In 1994, four weeks into my freshman year of college, the course of my life changed. I was taken off my front porch, attacked from behind and sexually assaulted. I reported it to police, and the hospital collected evidence from my clothes and body then stored in a rape kit.
Nearly two decades later, the assailant — a serial rapist — matched three sexual-assault forensic kits from the 1990s and was charged for these rapes and a list of crimes done to myself and the other two women.
The judicial process that followed his arrest was overwhelming and intimidating. Thankfully, I had the luxury many crime victims are not afforded. The prosecutor in my case involved me, and the other two women victimized, every step of the way. He allowed us to be part of the process. Unlike many survivors I have counseled, I was lucky to have good support and representation.
I support Marsy’s Law, Senate Bill 3, because I believe that this level of respect and fairness is not something that should be left up to chance. The accused are given constitutional rights throughout the judicial process, so why is this not the case for victims?
The legislation, which has passed out of the Senate and was approved by a House committee Monday, is a constitutional amendment that will accomplish something I think most Kentuckians believe is already commonplace — ensuring every victim, no matter their demographic or jurisdiction, are equally protected and supported as they navigate the criminal justice system.
Specifically, it would guarantee victims are provided information about their rights; receive timely notification of, and can be present for all court proceedings; and that their voice can be heard at critical points during the legal process. It’s important to remember that when someone has been victimized by crime, they immediately become a witness to that crime. Their testimony is critical to ensuring justice can be served.
In my case, I wanted to be at every court date, and sometimes these dates were at the last minute. This put me in the uncomfortable position of being forced to tell my boss what had happened so that I could take time off work at the last minute. Given short notice also meant that many times I had no time to prepare myself for facing my accuser in court mentally.
I wanted my family’s support, so they had to take off work and travel on short notice. I wanted the right to tell my truth of what happened to me that changed my life forever, the right to be present in court for the proceedings and to feel included in my case.
Crime victims get their freedoms taken away from them the moment they are victimized. With Marsy’s Law, we can ensure the system will not do further damage.
Michelle Kuiper is a sexual-assault survivor and advocate from Louisville.