Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The Abby Honold Act Will Gut Justice – The Future of Freedom Foundation

Posted by M. C. on March 3, 2021

by Wendy McElroy

You are hauled in by the police and accused of rape. Being innocent, you demand to know details of the accusation: when, where did the crime occur, and on what’s the evidence? The police respond, “the young woman’s allegation is the only evidence, and her account has shifted several times about when and where. Now prove you did not rape her.” This Kafkaesque scenario inverts the presumption of innocence by assuming you are guilty merely because you are accused.Accusers/victims must be heard within the framework of fair police procedures, especially due process, where accusations stand or fall on their merit.
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A bill before Congress seeks to gut the presumption of innocence upon which all of due process rests. The Abby Honold Act would fund and expand “trauma-informed” law enforcement in police departments across the land. This #Metoo-approach to allegations of sexual abuse requires the police to “believe the woman” and automatically view her as a victim. The Act redefines due process and objective police work as attacks on accusers because the presumption of innocence is granted to an accused and the burden of proof is placed on an accuser who is asked for evidence. (Men are victimized by sexual abuse, as well — and at rates similar to women — but male victims constitute a small percent of reported assaults.)

The Act and its underlying #Metoo politics are pernicious. They draw on the natural compassion people feel toward sexual victims and use this response as a moral mandate to gut justice. The currently popular drive to reform the police is hijacked to pull off a revolution instead — one that heads in the wrong direction by deliberately embedding bias and subjectivity into law enforcement in the name of crusading virtue. Only a unrepentant villain could object to believing a rape victim — a position that silences most critics.


In January 2021, Amy Klobuchar reintroduced a 2017 version of the Act in the Senate; Tom Emmer (R-MN) reintroduced it in the House. The bill’s text describes its purpose: “To authorize the Office on Violence Against Women to improve the handling of crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by incorporating a trauma-informed approach into the initial response to and investigation of such crimes.” [Note: some presentations of the Act include the words “evidence-based” even though “trauma-informed” is a diametrically opposed concept.]

The Abby Honold Act is named after a former University of Minnesota student who was violently raped in 2014. Her case became a media sensation because the investigation was badly conducted and this was deemed to be the norm within police departments. Honold spent the next few years campaigning for federal funds with which to retrain police officers on how to handle sexual abuse cases.

Standard police procedure is supposed to address an accuser in an unbiased manner in order to collect evidence that supports or invalidates an allegation. This is called the Reid method, which has three steps: factual analysis to develop or discard leads, interviews to gather more information, and interrogations to elicit a confession. Police execution often falls short, but this is the ideal procedure. By contrast, trauma-informed police procedure is called the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview (FETI) and is proudly biased in favor of the accuser. The manual, “FETI Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview,” opens, “The real key to FETI is not the exact questions, but the approach: sympathetic, believing, victim-centered.” Like a therapist, the investigator uses “principles and techniques developed for forensic child interviews (open-ended non-leading questions, soft interview room and empathy).”

The process also has three steps. First, the accuser/victim is believed. Second, contradictions, memory gaps, and inconsistencies in the accuser/victim’s testimony are not considered disprobative. Investigators work with an accuser/victim to build a case that reconciles gaps or contradictions in testimony with the explicit goal of convicting an accused. A guide to FETI states, “Trauma victims often omit, exaggerate, or make up information when trying to make sense of what happened to them or to fill gaps in memory.” Third, factors that cast doubt on the accuser/victim’s testimony are dismissed; for example, a history of false allegations is not relevant.  In short, the investigator eschews standard evidence-gathering techniques. The proposed Rape Accusation Program Employee for You (RAPEY) Act in Texas is an example. The RAPEY Act prohibits the use of lie detectors on accusers/victims.

An account of the RAPEY Act explains, “The bill’s author … believes in science.” What is the science to which objectivity, evidence, and due process must bow?

Weaponized Science

See the rest here

This post was written by: Wendy McElroy

Wendy McElroy is an author for The Future of Freedom Foundation, a fellow of the Independent Institute, and the author of The Reasonable Woman: A Guide to Intellectual Survival (Prometheus Books, 1998).

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