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“Abby’s Act” will help law enforcement prosecute sexual assault, improve care and treatment for victims

Bill was inspired by Abby Honold, a former University of Minnesota student and rape survivor, Officer Kevin Randolph, who helped Abby win her case against her perpetrator, and Linda Walther, the sexual assault nurse who examined Abby minutes after her attack

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) teamed up with Reps. Karen Handel (GA-06), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Debbie Wasserman Shultz (FL-23) and Tim Walz (MN-01) to introduce the Abby Honold Act in an effort to help law enforcement prosecute sexual assault while improving care and treatment for victims. Specifically, the bill will use existing funds to train law enforcement in evidence-based, trauma-informed interview techniques to prevent re-traumatization of the victim, improve communication between victims and law enforcement, and ensure accurate and complete information is collected and submitted to law enforcement. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced companion legislation in the Senate. 

“Sexual assault is a crime and it is vital for law enforcement to have accurate and complete information to prosecute it as such,” said Rep. Emmer. “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. We are taking an important step forward to provide better treatment to sexual assault victims in crisis and making certain it is treated like the heinous crime it is.”

“I am proud to have helped introduce this important bill, ensuring that victims of sexual assault across the country will have the best possible support from their local law enforcement, and that these individuals will be provided the care they desperately need and deserve,” said Rep. Handel.

“Our bipartisan legislation will ensure that our communities are safer, and dedicated to smart, compassionate policing. We're aiming to give officers in every precinct and every state the tools to help survivors of rape and sexual assault seek justice, without being re-victimized through the investigation process,” said Rep. Jayapal. “This bill cannot take away the trauma that survivors have experienced, but it can ensure that police have the best tools to work with trauma survivors and that survivors’ voices are fully heard. I'm honored to work with my colleagues on making this legislation a reality.”

“Survivors of sexual violence deserve all the support we can provide and that means promoting better trauma-informed training for law enforcement and other personnel who assist survivors. I'm proud to cosponsor this common sense legislation that will make necessary improvements in training for those working with people when they are at their most vulnerable,” said Rep. Kuster.

“Abby Honold's courage and determination to help sexual assault victims across the nation will have a real impact on the way law enforcement officials respond to these heinous crimes. Victims of sexual assault who are brave enough to come forward and report an attack need to know that police are ready to hear their stories. This legislation makes it more likely that perpetrators of sexual assault will be swiftly brought to justice,” said Rep. Wasserman Schultz.

“It's time to end the re-traumatization of assault survivors who step forward seeking help, support, and justice,” said Rep. Walz. “That’s why I'm proud to join with my colleagues to introduce the Abby Honold Act. This bill will help train law enforcement, first responders, university officials, and others who interface with victims of sexual violence how to use best practices and trauma-informed techniques.”

When trauma is experienced, the victim often goes into shock and the part of the brain that normally records events, the prefrontal cortex, shuts down. Unfortunately, most interview techniques are developed to specifically tap into the prefrontal cortex. For trauma victims, memory recall and accuracy of events and details will be distorted, often leading to suspicion of the victim. Abby’s Act is an important first step in ensuring that victims of sexual assault receive better treatment, as well as equipping law enforcement with accurate and complete information to prosecute the crime. 

 “I’m in awe of Abby’s ability to turn an incredibly horrific experience into something that could help other survivors,” said Senator Klobuchar. “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.”

“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,” said Abby Honold.

CLICK HERE to read the bill.