Schneider: The midterms and the #MeToo Movement matter; Jim Knoblach is why

Jim Knoblach, a state representative from the St. Cloud area has been accused of sexually abusing his daughter throughout her life.

Ellen Schneider

Minnesota Rep. Jim Knoblach dropped out of the race for his state legislature seat last week, after MPR News reported allegations his daughter made regarding his inappropriate behavior toward her throughout her life.

Knoblach has denied all charges. However, his daughter, Laura Knoblach, claims she first remembers her father touching her inappropriately when she was as young as 9 years old. MPR News describes the allegations in vivid detail, including Knoblach coming into his daughter’s room at night, laying with her and holding her down while he licked her neck and bit her ears.

The behaviors continued well into Laura’s adolescent years, she said, escalating as she got older. This caused some sexual confusion, especially once she started dating. Despite this, Knoblach’s behaviors continued. Laura described instances of him using his weight to hold her down and press against her, pinning her against a car and kissing between her thighs.

Knoblach has been a prominent Republican state representative since 1994 in the St. Cloud area. While some have accused his daughter of making baseless accusations out of political grievances, this is not the first time she has tried to tell someone about her alleged abuse.

Laura Knoblach has confided in numerous members of her community, dating back to at least 2011. She confided in relatives – including her mother – teachers, youth pastors and even made a social media post in 2016. Despite attempts to get help and get away from the man she said was abusing her, he not only remained in her life, but remained in office as well.

While the police held an investigation in 2017, Knoblach has not been charged because his behaviors did not include touching Laura beneath her clothing or exposing himself to her. In other words, Knoblach’s behavior does not meet criminal standards. However, that does not mean he meets the standards of the public for their representatives.

The most astonishing aspect of this story is the extent to which Laura Knoblach’s family and community went in order to silence her, in the interest of her father’s political career. If you’ve had any doubts about how midterm or state elections matter, this case should make you reconsider.

We cannot allow these kinds of people to represent us on either a state or a national scale. It’s our civic duty to ensure these people are not in positions of power, no matter how small.

It is also a civic duty to make sure information that is relevant to the public is known. We should all be concerned about the lengths to which a family and community went to prevent Laura Knoblach from speaking out. While Laura was a minor, enduring most of her alleged abuse, she posted to social media that she had been molested throughout her childhood, a post that was removed following familial pressures.

If you’ve ever questioned if or why the #MeToo movement matters — this is it. An entire community failed a young woman in her multiple requests for help, which makes it strikingly clear providing adequate resources for people looking to escape situations that are allegedly abusive is absolutely essential.

I believe it is the responsibility of the people of Minnesota to hold their representatives and fellow community members accountable, get offenders out of office when their behavior becomes questionable and give platforms to the people who have something to say about them. Minnesota has to decide if we are going to be disengaged in this process and complacent in potential abuses, or if we’re going to be cognizant and care about who is representing us. It’s up to us.