Iowans must stand with victims during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

State Auditor Rob Sand speaks at a public town hall in Onawa (Monona County) on May 22, 2023. Photo provided by State Auditor’s office.

Rob Sand is Iowa’s state auditor.

Lots of topics get swept under the rug because they’re not comfortable for us to confront. Sometimes we’d rather pretend the problems don’t exist or couldn’t happen in a place like Iowa. But they do, and it can happen anywhere—even in our great state. It is our obligation to confront them in order to solve them.

I’ve always spoken out on behalf of victims of sexual violence. From my time as a prosecutor putting or keeping rapists and pedophiles behind bars, to voting against taxpayer-funded settlements that bail out perpetrators of egregious sexual harassment in my role as a member of the State Appeal Board now that I’m state auditor.

The month of April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center provides a number of tools to help raise awareness of sexual assault and prevent it from happening in the first place.

So, let’s confront another uncomfortable topic: since her term began, Iowa’s Attorney General Brenna Bird cut off funding for emergency contraception for rape victims. It is hard to believe, but read that sentence again. The majority of the program’s participants are Iowa children and teenagers. This has nothing to do with abortion: emergency contraception, in fact, must be taken quickly after a rape to prevent pregnancy. Her refusal to support rape victims literally makes my skin crawl.

In addition, to avoid accountability, the attorney general has claimed her office paused funding for this program because an “audit” is underway. I’m her auditor: that’s not true. She might be having someone in her office concoct some twisted memo to try to justify her decision, but that’s not an “audit.”

Protecting victims and providing support for people who’ve experienced an unspeakable crime shouldn’t be a partisan idea. Political considerations didn’t cross my mind when I was prosecuting sex offenders at the Attorney General’s office. And for the vast majority of hardworking people in law enforcement, that’s still true.

But the attorney general’s decision to stop providing payments for emergency contraception is exactly that. It reminds me of why so many Iowans turn away from politics, and how we hate what it does to people who seek power. The attorney general says she’s unsure whether taxpayer funds should be used for this purpose, except the funds weren’t coming from taxes—the money comes from fines paid by offenders found guilty of crimes.

Iowans are fair-minded. We want justice for those wronged. During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we should all re-commit ourselves to finding care and consideration for people who’ve been through trauma and tragedy. The attorney general should stop hiding behind make-believe audits and political games and restore funding for emergency contraception.

To learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month and ways you can help prevent this crime from happening, visit

Editor’s note from Laura Belin: Auditor Sand commented further on Attorney General Bird’s refusal to provide emergency contraception for sexual assault survivors at a news conference on March 27.

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Rob Sand

  • Rob sand probably knows

    … that there are all kinds of meaningful audits, not just financial audits by the State auditor. For the case at hand, the audit is probably a Brenna’s head in the sand type of audit.