She Turned Her Terrifying Rape Into A ‘Relentless’ Fight For Justice

Abby Honold recalled a Minneapolis police detective telling her that she should have tried saying ‘no.’

By Erik Hawkins
Abby Honold G

In April, the mayor and police chief of Minneapolis, Minnesota, held a news conference to announce that law enforcement in the city would be using new “victim-centered” protocols when investigating sexual assault. Sharing a stage with the officials was Abby Honold, who told a crowd that changes like those in Minneapolis gave her hope.

“I’m happy that the stories of myself and other really, really brave survivors, who have spoken out for change, has made a difference,” she said, according to the Minnesota Daily.

About five years prior, Honold, 22 at the time, was sexually assaulted while studying at the University of Minnesota. The systemic roadblocks to justice that she endured after her assault spurred her on toward a budding career in activism, reaching out to survivors across the country and fighting for reforms to help them.

This fall, award-winning television journalist Kate Snow will be telling the harrowing — and inspiring — stories of people, including Honold, who endured unimaginable horror and heartbreak, but came out swinging against injustice, with the new series “Relentless With Kate Snow.” Honold will join seven others with powerful stories on the series, which premieres on Friday, Oct. 4, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Oxygen.

After her ordeal — which viewers will experience on “Relentless” — Honold resolved to help as many people like her as she could.

“For a long time, I dealt with my own trauma and case, and struggled in finding solidarity with others,” Honold wrote on her website. “I realized during those two years how isolating this experience was, and I made the decision that no one else should have to struggle through this alone if I could help it.”

Honold has helped bring into the world survivor-oriented bills at the state, local and federal level. The Abby Honold Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in the form of an amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in April with strong bipartisan support, according to congressional journal Ripon Advance. It's awaiting a vote in the Senate, where it was introduced by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar praised Honold as a “fierce champion” and “the driving force” behind the bill, after it passed its first hurdle.

That bill Honold fought so hard for would make grants available for law enforcement across the country to adopt "evidence-based, trauma-informed approaches” when it comes to tackling sexual assault and similar offenses — much like the new approaches she helped shepherd in for Minneapolis police.

On Twitter, on the day her bill passed in the U.S. House, Honold shared some of her experience dealing with law enforcement after her rape — she even recalled an officer telling her, “Well, it doesn’t sound like you said the word ‘no’ — boys really understand the word ‘no.’ You should try that next time.”

Honold has also worked with other young people in her home state to push for mandatory consent education in Grades 8-12. Teens would be taught that “lack of protest” or a dating relationship don’t necessarily equal consent for sexual activity, according to the Minnesota Post.

She gives talks to high-schoolers, too — after all, sexual assault can happen at any virtually any age.

She begins her talks with, “It happened to me in college. But it happened to many of my friends in high school,” according to the Post. “They deserve to be hearing good information. And they deserve to be ready for college as well.”

If it sounds like Honold’s experience must have been terrifying, to spur her into the kind of action she has been undertaking across the country in the years since her assault, you would be correct.

Watch the whole story of the abuse and injustice that Abby Honold faced before she turned her personal pain into triumph and became an advocate for survivors, when she is featured on “Relentless With Kate Snow,” which premieres Friday, Oct. 4, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. 

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