Emmer Calls on Congress to Pass Abby Honold Act

WASHINGTON, DC — Since his election to Congress in 2014, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer (MN-6) has made a name for himself in a number of key roles.

As a member of the Financial Services Committee, the Minnesota lawmaker has become known as a common sense conservative who is working to modernize our nation’s financial system so it better serves the needs of working Americans. 

As the Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Emmer has built a reputation as a shrewd political strategist who not only led his party to surprising gains in last November’s election, but is leading the GOP effort to win back the House in 2022.

Emmer has also made a name for himself in another role in recent years — as the co-author of a bill that would transform the way sexual assaults are handled in America.  The bill, titled the Abby Honold Actis named after a student at the University of Minnesota who was the victim of a sexual assault.  The legislation was introduced by Democrat Amy Klobuchar in the U.S. Senate and has support on both sides of the political aisle.

Emmer appeared before a virtual meeting of The Ripon Society and the Franklin Center this past Thursday to discuss the measure and why he believes it should be enacted into law.

“Abby Honold was the victim of a violent sexual assault by a classmate, an individual who was later convicted of multiple rapes,” he stated.  “As the victim, Abby did everything she was supposed to do. At just 19 years old, reeling from this traumatic sexual assault, she called 9-1-1. The paramedics arrived. She was taken to the hospital. She was interviewed by the police. She expected that her assailant was not only going to be arrested as he was initially, but that they would hold him. At first, that’s what happened.  But then he was released. And in the year that he was let out of jail after this violent sexual assault of Abby Honold, he committed additional rapes.

“The first and most important thing we must do is to ensure we bring these perpetrators to justice. Sometimes in these situations, that’s easier said than done. Nationally, out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 995 perpetrators will walk free. This makes sexual assault a crime where, incredibly, perpetrators are the least likely to be imprisoned. What’s more, only 23% of assaults are reported in the first place.  This tells me that victims lack trust in the system that’s tasked with prosecuting their assailants.  We need to reform our system for reporting and prosecuting assaults to the point where survivors feel safe coming forward.”

“We need to reform our system for reporting and prosecuting assaults to the point where survivors feel safe coming forward.”

According to Emmer, the Abby Honold Act would help achieve this goal by creating a grant program to train law enforcement agencies willing to participate in evidence-based, trauma-informed interview techniques. 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.

The goal would be to improve communication between victims and law enforcement and ensure accurate and complete information is submitted to law enforcement — which, Emmer said, is fortunately what occurred with Abby.

“She was cared for by a nurse who was trained to use a trauma-informed interviewing method,” he said.  “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.”

Emmer credited Honold for her courage and resilience in promoting this issue and working to make sure other victims had access to the kind of trauma-informed care she received.

“God bless Abby,” he declared.  “I think most people would have probably withdrawn into their personal life and just try to deal with this on their own. But Abby began advocating for a solution to help other victims like herself.  Her idea was to promote the use of trauma-informed care in our nation’s social services. She’s done that, and she’s become a champion, I believe, of survivors of sexual assault.”

Following his remarks, Emmer was asked a number of questions, including one about one of the other roles where he has made a name for himself in recent years — as the Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee’s FinTech Task Force. 

“I think this should be a subcommittee,” he said of the panel.  “There’s room for a seventh subcommittee. Our chairwoman doesn’t want to make it a subcommittee. There’s still reluctance for some reason.  I’m not going to say it’s all on the Democrat side, but it’s becoming more and more that way, even though we’ve got a bunch of our colleagues from the other side of the aisle involved in the Blockchain Caucus very interested in these issues. There just seems to be a fear of this great new world, which might empower individuals to make decisions and take actions on their own without the need for a government being involved.  The charge on our side is to develop policies that we can hit the ground running with in 2023 when we’re in the majority. Do I think we can accomplish things now?  I’m hopeful, but I wouldn’t get over the tips of our skis based on what I just said.

“I do think the number one thing that the Administration could do is finally define: what is a currency? What is a commodity? And what is a security?  Some of the proposals that would be really important to maintaining the level of entrepreneurial activity in this country would be a safe harbor bill from the IRS, from the SEC, or from other regulatory agencies when you’re trying to create something.  I think it’s really important that we not do regulation through enforcement.  We don’t want to punish people after the fact.  We want to create an open, light touch regulatory environment to allow them to create and develop.”

Emmer was also asked his thoughts about the possibility that taxes could be increased to pay for an infrastructure plan and fund a range of other longtime Democrat priorities. 

“What we’ve seen since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed was an explosion of American manufacturing and bringing jobs back to this country,” he noted.  “That’s why we’re positioned to do well coming out of a pandemic.  The absolute wrong formula for success would be to undo those tax cuts. 

“Before the last administration came into office, we had less than 2% growth in this country.  And they were telling us it was going to be the new normal. Well, that changed. And it was a best economy we’d seen in decades. The lowest unemployment for women, for Hispanics, for blacks that we had seen in decades until the pandemic hit. I believe that it’s going to be very difficult for the other side to change that. They can do it through a reconciliation bill.  They can certainly undo tax cuts and change things, but they do so at their peril.”

Putting on his political hat and touching on his other role as Chairman of the NRCC, Emmer added: 

“I’m going to tell you right now, and I’ll say this out loud and I’ll bet McCarthy’s house on it — any vulnerable Democrat who votes to increase taxes, corporate or otherwise, will lose their election in November of 2022.”

Emmer was asked a follow-up question about the effort he is leading to retake the House and the candidates being recruited to run on the Republican ballot next year.

“I will tell you the excitement is still out there,” he stated.  “The energy is still out there. As of the 18th of this month, I think almost 400 candidates have filed campaign committees to run as Republicans for the U.S. House of Representatives in 303 districts. Compare that to 10 years ago when I think the number was around 160. It is a totally different energy level that’s out there.  

“I think almost 100 women have filed a campaign committee.  We have almost 70 candidates from minority communities who have filed committees. And I think there’s 88 veterans who are in that mix.  We’re going to have the right candidates. We’re going to have the right message.  It’s just a matter of making sure we have enough resources.”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.