This rape survivor told her story, and helped bring real change to a police department

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The Minneapolis Mayor and Police Chief rolled out the city's new sexual assault investigation policy Wednesday, which they say will be based on three pillars; compassion, accountability and responsiveness.

The changes were made in response to a Star Tribune special report called "Denied Justice", which examined the problems victim face when reporting rape. (WCCO Radio produced a related podcast, Inside the News, hosted by Jordana Green).  

WCCO Radio's Susie Jones sat down with one young woman, who shared her story which ultimately led to the change. 

Abby Honold grew up in Bloomington, and went to the University of Minnesota. She was raped in 2014 at a tail gate party. 

"I was drinking pretty heavily. I was introduced to a guy named Dan by one of my friends. My friend was a gay man who implied he was hooking up with him, so I kind of thought this guy wasn't interested in me." 

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She said she brushed off some signs that in hindsight were 'red flags'. 

"He lured me up into his apartment by saying that he needed help carrying stuff down and he kept saying it over and over again, so I went up," Honold said.  

He attacked her, and raped her twice. 

"I called 911 within about 20 minutes. It just took me awhile to calm down," she said.  

Police arrived and talked to her while she was in the ambulance. 

"They told me that I should have said different things. That stop was not as good as no was." 

She was told that she should not tell her mother because she would be embarrassed.  Honold was so uncomfortable with the interview that she stopped sharing information. 

At the hospital, she found some solace with her forensic nurse. 

"She was trained in trauma informed interviewing and her questions really helped me get all of the information out about my assault." 

She said to this day, she doesn't think her rapist would be in prison had it not been for the nurse. 

Still the process was difficult. 

"Basically my rapist's friends told the detective assigned to the case that they had a recording of me saying it was consensual and they didn't have that." 

The detective believed them and let him go. 

"Then he told me that if I tried to get anything to happen with my case, he would charge me with a false report." 

She filed a restraining order against her attacker,  and eventually the University of Minnesota Police Department took the case. She got a pro bono attorney and after another woman came forward accusing the same man, the university police filed charges, something the city had never done. 

Honold said while she was relieved her case was proceeding, she had had to deal with the shame of rape throughout the proceedings.

Back at the hospital, her forensic nurse called the detective again to share new information. 

"I think it was over 100 injuries both outside and inside my body," Honold recalled. 

After her attacker ended up in prison, she decided to speak out and to help others, but still encountered push back.

"I had friends that told me if I went public with this, that my life would be over, and that I would never get a job," she said. 

She did push forward, and worked to get her story told in the Star Tribune, which helped lead to the investigative series. 

That report got the attention of then Attorney General Lori Swanson, who created a task force to look at the problems that victims face when reporting sexual assaults.  The task force came up with recommendations that have been incorporated in the new training for Minneapolis Police.   She said she feels she has been part of that change.

She is married now, and grateful she's made a difference in the lives of others.