News from Representative Tom Emmer

Dear Friend, 

As more brave victims come forward, our nation has been forced to take notice of an under reported and under prosecuted crime: sexual violence. In the United States, every 98 seconds someone is sexually assaulted. Young Americans between the ages of 15-34 are at the highest risk for sexual assault, as well as women and girls. Disturbingly, millions of women in the United States have experienced extreme sexual violence.

And yet perpetrators of this crime are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. Often this is due to sexual violence not being reported. In fact, only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. One of the highest rates of non-reporting exists among females who serve our nation in the military. 

For far too long, this crime has gone unpunished. It’s time for justice to be served. Keep reading to learn more about how Congress is taking a stand and my work on the Abby Honold Act. 

Sincerely,

Congressional Action

In our Nation’s Capital, Congress has begun to take necessary steps to eradicate these heinous crimes. I was proud to vote with my colleagues in the House to pass the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act which amends and reforms current, largely insufficient procedures in place for handling workplace sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. This legislation will ensure the proper handling of workplace misconduct. We also passed HRes 742 which requires each employing office of the House of Representatives to implement an anti-harassment policy. The bill additionally establishes the Office of Employee Advocacy to provide legal assistance and consultation to employees of the House in situations of workplace misconduct. Addressing the internal handling of sexual harassment and assault in Congress is a good first step in the right direction. 

Fixing the System

Congress has also made efforts to address accountability for those who do not report abuse. Our nation watched in horror as more than 140 brave women took a stand against Larry Nassar, who for years committed crimes against these young female athletes - crimes that went undetected and unpunished. USA Gymnastics and sports organizations like it have a responsibility to their athletes, many of whom embark on their athletic careers at a young age. A national standard to protect these young Americans is necessary and those who fail to report abuse allegations must face the consequences. In an effort to fix a system that has failed countless victims, Congress passed H.R.1973 - Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017. This legislation extends the statute of limitations for victims and requires athletic organizations to put forth reasonable procedures to avoid sexual harassment and assault.  

Abby Honold Act

Congressman Emmer meeting with Abby Honold and nurse, Linda Walther to discuss the Abby Honold Act. 

Sexual assault happens everywhere, including college campuses. When Senator Amy Klobuchar and I heard about the story of Abby Honold, we joined Abby in turning her unthinkable experience into a positive one. As a student at the University of Minnesota, Abby was brutally sexually assaulted by a classmate. When she was questioned by law enforcement, however, Abby could not recall details and facts about what happened.

We learned this is all too common. When a person experiences trauma, the cognitive part of their brain which records events, the prefrontal cortex, shuts down. Interview techniques to acquire needed facts from victims are designed to tap into this cognitive part of the brain, leaving those who have experienced trauma unable to recall critical details and information to bring justice to their perpetrator. 

Fortunately for Abby, she was taken to the hospital where she met Linda Walther, a sexual assault nurse who examined her and was trained in a technique known as Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI). Linda accessed another part of Abby’s brain, a more primitive section, by asking questions about what she smelled, tasted, heard and other sensory information. Through Linda’s compassion and expertise, Abby was able to recall important details and went on to partner up with Officer Kevin Randolph in prosecuting her perpetrator.

Congressman Emmer with Lt. Kevin Randolph.

Then Abby began to rewrite her story. As a champion for victims of sexual assault she approached members of Congress to change the engagement law enforcement has with victims. Citing her own experience, she explains that without nurses like Linda, and law enforcement like Kevin, victims do not and cannot see justice brought to their perpetrator, often an important part of their healing process. Abby’s story inspired me as well as my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and Senator Klobuchar and I introduced the Abby Honold Act last December.

The Abby Honold Act would provide better treatment to victims in crisis by utilizing existing funds to train law enforcement in evidence-based, trauma-informed interview techniques like FETI. This will improve communication between victims and law enforcement and most importantly, ensure accurate and complete information is collected and submitted to law enforcement.

Sexual assault is a crime and it is vital for law enforcement to have accurate and complete information to prosecute it as such. 

Abby’s story happened in the heart of Minnesota, and so many more just like her do not get the justice they need for their healing process. We will not stand for more young women like Abby to be assaulted on college campuses, in our communities, or in this nation and left to heal alone and without justice. 

As the father of a young daughter, lawyer and now Congressman, I will strive to do everything I can to see that sexual violence is prosecuted like the heinous crime it is. 

Learn more about Abby’s story here.

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