Bill would establish a demonstration program for trauma-informed training of law enforcement 

Legislation is inspired by Abby Honold, a former University of Minnesota student and rape survivor

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) reintroduced the Abby Honold Act in both chambers of Congress. This bipartisan legislation would promote the use of trauma-informed techniques by law enforcement when responding to sexual assault crimes. It is inspired by Abby Honold, a former student of the University of Minnesota and rape survivor, who has worked to increase awareness and use of these techniques. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Representative Annie Kuster (D-NH) cosponsored the bill in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively.

The bill would establish a demonstration program for law enforcement that incorporates trauma-informed techniques and evidence-based practices in trainings on responding to sexual assault crimes. By preventing re-traumatization of the victim and improving communication between victims and law enforcement officers, the bill would increase the likelihood of successfully investigating and prosecuting alleged sexual assault crimes.

“As we work to support survivors like Abby, this bill, named in her honor, will provide law enforcement with the skills and resources they need to best respond to and help victims,” Klobuchar said. “It is an important step forward in ensuring that law enforcement can see these critical investigations through to prosecution using the most sensitive and effective techniques.”

“Victims of trauma deserve compassionate care, and the chance to heal. A vital part of that healing comes from the prosecution of their offender. I am proud to partner with Senator Klobuchar, Senator Cornyn, and Representative Kuster to introduce the Abby Honold Act. For Abby, and many survivors like her, trauma-informed care made all the difference. Assisting law enforcement with specialized training will ensure accurate and complete information for prosecution while improving the care the victim receives. This legislation is key to providing law enforcement with the resources needed to ensure that the recovery process of victims is central to the treatment they receive,” Emmer said.

“Law enforcement have a big role in the recovery process of sexual assault victims, from collecting information about the attack to bringing the attacker to justice,” Cornyn said. “Making a victim feel comfortable and cared for requires a compassionate response, and our bill ensures law enforcement have the trauma-informed training they need to help deliver justice for victims.”

“We cannot eliminate sexual violence without first recognizing how trauma from these attacks impacts our brains and emotions,” Kuster said. “Using a trauma-informed approach with survivors as they work with law enforcement not only prevents retraumatizing them, but also better supports them to help identify their perpetrators and build their case. I’m proud to join Rep. Emmer to reintroduce the bipartisan Abby Honold Act and ensure law enforcement has access to this critical training.”

“I am incredibly grateful to Senator Klobuchar and Congressman Emmer for introducing my bill. I never would have imagined that I could have made something good come out of what happened to me. Victims of sexual violence deserve better when and if they report to police, and law enforcement deserves better training and resources for sex crimes,” Abby Honold said.

Specifically, the bill would require the Justice Department to award grants over the next two fiscal years to law enforcement agencies to implement evidence-based or promising practices to incorporate trauma-informed techniques in responding to sexual assault cases. Grant recipients would be required to provide training on the use of evidence-based, trauma-informed practices throughout an investigation into sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, by:

  • Conducting victim interviews in a manner that elicits valuable information about the assault and avoids re-traumatization of the victim;
  • Conducting field investigations that reflect best and promising practices;
  • Customizing investigative approaches to ensure a culturally appropriate approach;
  • Responding to complex cases involving alcohol- or drug-facilitated sexual assault, non-stranger sexual assault, victims with disabilities, LGBT victims, and male sexual assault; and
  • Developing collaborative relationships between law enforcement, prosecutors, and other members of the sexual assault response team and the community.