Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sen. Al Franken Takes His Name Off Sexual Assault Bill


Senator Al Franken made it clear yesterday - he is not going to resign after accusations of sexual harassment. That's led to an especially uncomfortable situation for one young woman. Her name is Abby Honold, and she had asked Senator Franken to draft legislation related to sexual assault. It would pay for training for police officers to learn how to better treat survivors of these crimes. Honold proposed this because of her own experience. When she was 19 years old, she was raped at the University of Minnesota. Hours afterwards, Honold was in a hospital bed when a detective walked in.

ABBY HONOLD: And he said, just so you know, this isn't going to go anywhere. And I tried to tell him things as they would come up, and he would cut me off and say, you know, no, we need to go in chronological order. So by the end of my interview with them, I felt very frustrated. I just wanted to go home.

MARTIN: Honold says the officer was openly dismissive of her testimony and insinuated that she was responsible. But after the detective spoke with her, a forensic nurse came into her hospital room.

HONOLD: She sat down, and she just had a very calm energy. And, you know, she told me everything that she was going to do. She explained what the rape kit entailed. I was definitely nervous, but I trusted her.

MARTIN: After that interview with the nurse, the detective realized that he did have a case. As Honold's case went to the court, she started thinking about why she'd been able to tell that nurse a lot of painful details and realized it was because the nurse had the right training. Her rapist was sentenced to six years in prison last year. So that was all the background for Abby Honold when she heard Leeann Tweeden's story. Tweeden is the radio anchor who says Franken forcibly kissed her. Other women have accused Al Franken of touching them inappropriately. When she learned about this, Honold asked Senator Franken to take his name off her bill.

How long did it take you to then realize that he couldn't have his name on your bill anymore?

HONOLD: I made that decision pretty quickly. In this case, I had to care about the victims who may not be helped if his name remained attached to this legislation. And I reached out to his office, and we agreed that that was the best move to make.

MARTIN: How did you feel about having to make that decision because he had been in - so instrumental in getting you to this point?

HONOLD: It was really crushing to have to change this up, and especially, so many of the amazing people in Senator Franken's office that I've worked with - but I'm trying to remind myself that the most important thing is that victims are helped with this legislation.

MARTIN: May I ask whether or not you think Senator Franken should step down from his position because of the allegations of sexual harassment, which he has conceded?

HONOLD: I've tried to hold off from saying anything about that in particular. I can understand why people would want that. I also want to respect - you know, for example, Leeann Tweeden said that she didn't think he should resign, and so, of course, the part of me that wants to, you know, listen to victims first wants to respect that too.

MARTIN: But I guess I wonder if the central question here isn't the trade-off that happens. You know, Republicans in Alabama will point to Roy Moore and say, yes, his transgressions are abhorrent, but we need him in the Senate to further our own legislative priorities. And while you personally, Abby, might find Senator Franken's actions abhorrent, you appreciate his support for your particular legislation, and you're not willing to call him out and call on him to step down.

HONOLD: I wouldn't say that. I would say that I'm trying to respect Leeann Tweeden. If she came out tomorrow and she said that she wanted him to resign, I would back her up on that because it should be up to her. I certainly think he should be investigated, and I really don't think that it's appropriate that people who support him are trying to give him a pass based on what he's done in the Senate because that shouldn't matter, you know? There are people who do good things who assault and harass others, and there are people who don't do good things who assault and harass others, and they should all be held to the same standard.

MARTIN: We are in this collective awakening now as to the scope and the scale of sexual assault and sexual harassment in our culture - and an acknowledgement for the first time, really, of how difficult it is and has been for women to come forward. I wonder if you could just share how you have watched all of this unfold.

HONOLD: I think it's amazing. And I know that for a lot of survivors out there, it's really hard to hear this in the news every day. But I've noticed a big shift in people in my life who maybe haven't been victims of sexual violence or harassment, and I think that that's really important that people are starting to hear these stories.

MARTIN: The voice of Abby Honold, a 22-year-old survivor of sexual assault - Senator Amy Klobuchar is now on her bill. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.