Washington, D.C. - Yesterday, Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) offered an amendment to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to help law enforcement investigate sexual assault cases, as well as improve care and treatment for victims. The amendment passed with unanimous support
The amendment mirrored legislation introduced by Congressman Emmer, and inspired by Abby Honold, a former University of Minnesota student and rape survivor, and Officer Kevin Randolph, who helped Abby win her case against her perpetrator.
Emmer's amendment creates a voluntary grant program to train law enforcement personnel and first responders in evidence-based, trauma-informed interview techniques. These techniques can play an important role in preventing the re-traumatization of victims, improving communication between victims and law enforcement, and ensuring accurate and complete information about the alleged assault is obtained.
Emmer stated: “It is vital for law enforcement to have accurate and complete information to prosecute cases of sexual assault,” Emmer added, “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 must all work together to ensure these crimes are treated as the heinous acts they are, with the hopes of one day ceasing it altogether.”
Authorization of the Violence Against Women Act expired on February 15, 2019. Republicans offered an extension of VAWA, but were defeated on a partisan vote. The legislation to reauthorize VAWA that was considered by the House today, H.R. 1585, ultimately became a partisan tool used by Democrats which failed to include bipartisan compromises. As a result, H.R. 1585 was opposed by 157 Republicans, including Rep. Emmer, as well as Representative Peterson (D-MN).
In response to the vote, Emmer stated, "I am disappointed our colleagues did not use this opportunity to strike a bipartisan consensus. That is why I offered this bipartisan amendment as a demonstration that we can work together," Emmer continued, "And while I support the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, I cannot stand by and allow this important legislation to be co-opted by a political agenda. For victims like Abby Honold, and countless others who experience trauma, these resources are too important," Emmer concluded, "I hope the Senate considers the unanimous support for my amendment and the Abby Honold Act as it contemplates VAWA re-authorization."
Congressman Emmer is also a cosponsor of Congresswoman Stefanik's one-year extension of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
When University of Minnesota student Abby Honold reported her rape to police in 2014, the trauma she experienced prevented her brain from recalling important details about the crime that occurred - ones which would have immediately led to the prosecution of the perpetrator.
Traumatic experiences have been found to impact an individual’s memory and can repress a victim’s ability to recall important details about the event. When searching for evidence of criminal behavior, many interview techniques are not developed to comfort the victim and effectively access these memories.
Fortunately for Abby, she was taken to the hospital and cared for by a nurse who was trained to use a trauma-informed interviewing method. The nurse utilized her trauma-informed training to access another part of Abby’s brain, by asking questions about what she smelled, tasted, heard and other sensory information. Through her nurse’s compassion and expertise, Abby was able to recall the important details which ultimately aided the investigation of her case and led to the successful prosecution of her perpetrator.
Inspired by her story, Congressman Emmer worked with Senator Klobuchar to introduce the Abby Honold Act in both chambers of Congress during the 115th and 116th Congress. The language in this amendment was derived from the Abby Honold Act.