Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer joins senators in effort inspired by Abby Honold, a former University of Minnesota student and rape survivor 

Bill would establish a demonstration program for trauma-informed training for law enforcement, including training for interviewing victims of sexual assault and investigating sexual assault crimes

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Cornyn (R-TX) today introduced the Abby Honold Act—bipartisan legislation that would promote the use of trauma-informed techniques in responding to sexual assault crimes. The legislation was inspired by Abby Honold, a former student of the University of Minnesota and rape survivor who worked with Senator Al Franken to bring this issue to the forefront. The bill would establish a demonstration program to expand the use of trauma-informed techniques intended to ensure the use of evidence-based practices in responding to sexual assault crimes, prevent re-traumatization of the victim, and improve communication between victims and law enforcement officers in an effort to increase the likelihood of the successful investigation and prosecution of alleged sexual assault crimes in a manner that protects the victim to the greatest extent possible. Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN) today introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“I’m in awe of Abby’s ability to turn an incredibly horrific experience into something that could help other survivors,” Senator Klobuchar said. “We can and should do more for survivors, including ensuring law enforcement has the skills and resources to avoid re-traumatization and effectively see investigations through to prosecution using the most sensitive and effective techniques.”

“Often times the trauma victims experience after a sexual assault requires a special set of techniques for investigators to work with victims to understand what happened and make them feel comfortable to participate in investigations,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation will give law enforcement the training they need to obtain critical information that will lead to justice for victims.”

“Sexual assault is a crime and ensuring that law enforcement has accurate and complete information to prosecute it as such is vital. For Abby, and for the thousands of victims who experience trauma, this is a key part of their recovery process, as is a compassionate response in the immediate aftermath. I am proud to team up with my fellow Minnesotan, Senator Klobuchar, to take this important step in providing better treatment to sexual assault victims in crisis and making sure we treat it like the heinous crime that it is,” Congressman Emmer said.

“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 requires 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, including through:

  • 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
  • Developing collaborative relationships between law enforcement, prosecutors, and other members of the sexual assault response team and the community.

Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and prior to her time in the Senate, Klobuchar served as Hennepin County Attorney. She is a national leader in the fight to prevent domestic violence. In October, Klobuchar and Cornyn’s SAFER Act—legislation that would reauthorize, strengthen, and extend the Sexual Assault Forensic Registry program in an effort to help reduce the national rape kit backlog—passed the U.S. Senate. Last year, the Klobuchar-backed bipartisan Justice for All Reauthorization Act was signed into law. The law strengthens the rights of crime victims by providing the protection they need to restore their lives and enhances law enforcement’s ability to proactively stop violent criminals. The Justice for All Reauthorization Act also aims to reduce the rape kit backlog by supporting grant programs that fund forensic testing. Klobuchar has also championed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and led efforts to pass bipartisan legislation supporting survivors of sexual assault in the military.