U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar on Friday joined Abby Honold, a rape survivor, and leaders of eight sexual violence survivor support groups to discuss ways to include victim-centered care in the pending reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
At a roundtable discussion at Minneapolis-based Tubman, an organization that serves people who have experienced a range of traumas, the panelists proposed changes in the act — particularly regarding victims who are immigrants, LGBT and American Indian — to help prevent and prosecute domestic violence.
Last reauthorized in 2013, funding for programs under the act is scheduled to expire this year.
Inspired by Honold, the draft of the revised act includes funding to train law enforcement personnel to use trauma-informed techniques when responding to sexual assault crimes.
“The assault victim who is being interviewed has been through a trauma and has been hurt,” Honold said. “We need to have a conversation in which the victims, likely to drop out of the cases, feel comfortable while facing the questions.”
A former University of Minnesota student, Honold had teamed up with then-Sen. Al Franken, D.-Minn., on her proposals before Franken resigned in January in the face of sexual misconduct allegations. Honold then approached Klobuchar for support.
“It’s crucial we include everybody in the conversation. Next, we will keep working on getting trauma-informed questioning in the act to change the foundation of how to treat the victims,” Honold said.
Patina Park, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, said investigators need to treat victims as human beings during investigations. Denise Gamache, executive director of the Battered Women’s Justice Project in Minneapolis, proposed a continued emphasis in family court, while Nicholas Cichowicz, executive director of WATCH, a Minneapolis-based judicial watchdog organization, suggested focusing on training of court personnel.
Klobuchar, D-Minn., has been pushing for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and she led efforts to pass bipartisan legislation supporting survivors of sexual assault in the military.
“If you sit down in Washington and wait for people to come to you, you really miss a lot of the story,” Klobuchar said, adding that victims from tribal lands or who are recent immigrants typically cannot hire lobbyists. “So it is important for me to hear from the groups on the ground and then ... take those ideas to go forward.”
The original Violence Against Women Act was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The revised act is scheduled to come up before the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Klobuchar is a member, in June.