Zonta USA Advocacy Action Center

Zonta International is a global organization of women and men dedicated to empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy. The Zonta USA Advocacy Action Center is a tool for our members in the United States and other individuals who share our commitment to gender equality to take action to improve the lives of women and girls. With your help, we can make a difference. In addition to the actions below, click here to support our joint efforts with UNICEF USA to end child marriage in the United States.

Promote use of trauma-informed techniques in responding to sexual assault crimes

In the United States, one out of every six women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. In the two weeks following the assault, 94% of women experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime.

The Abby Honold Act seeks to promote the use of trauma-informed techniques by law enforcement when responding to sexual assault crimes. It is inspired by Abby Honold, a former student of the University of Minnesota who was violently raped in 2014.

The bill would establish a demonstration program for law enforcement that incorporates trauma-informed techniques and evidence-based practices in trainings on responding to sexual assault crimes. By preventing re-traumatization of the victim and improving communication between victims and law enforcement officers, the bill would increase the likelihood of successfully investigating and prosecuting alleged sexual assault crimes.

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

This bipartisan legislation was reintroduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in the Senate on January 28 and by Rep. Tom Emmer (D-MN-6) in the House of Representatives on February 1. Please use our pre-drafted letters to urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor and support S. 119 and H.R. 649. If they have already sponsored or co-sponsored the bill, you can send a pre-drafted message of thanks.

Click here to see an advocacy reporting map on this action.

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