Sexual Assault Survivors Doxed in Heitkamp Ad 'Afraid for Their Lives'
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) is on the ropes after her reelection campaign doxed at least 22 victims of domestic and sexual assault in a political ad that ran in several newspapers across North Dakota over the weekend. Some of the victims are now claiming to be in fear for their lives.
The ad came in the form of an open letter to her Republican opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer, in response to comments he had made about the #MeToo movement that Heitkamp felt were dismissive. There were 128 victims’ names listed in the campaign ad.
Several of the women have expressed anger on social media and elsewhere, and according to KFYR-TV, many others have indicated that they're not just upset about the breach of privacy, but are "afraid for their lives."
Sen. Heitkamp spent much of the day Tuesday apologizing for the egregious error.
"This is a huge mistake that anyone was included who should not have been included," she said. "Some of the women who may or may not have been victims of sexual assault deserve their privacy... and I can't say I'm sorry enough. I am so, so sorry that it happened," she told blogger and talk show host Rob Port.
On Wednesday, Heitkamp fired the person responsible for getting information for the campaign ad.
A woman in her twenties told KFYR's Daniela Hurtado that she agreed with Heitkamp's letter, but didn't appreciate having her name published without her consent.
"None of us even knew about it until late last night or early this morning and like I said, I don’t know what Heidi is gonna do to retract this, but a simple apology over the phone isn’t going to cut it for most of us I don't think," one of the victims said.
Another victim in her twenties said the whole thing started after she was tagged in a Facebook post asking for women to initial Heitkamp's letter to Congressman Cramer. She said she never responded to the appeal and now she's terrified for her safety.
"Some of the women that were put on the list, their names on the list are spelled exactly how their names are on Facebook. It's not actually how they're spelled in person. So I know these names came strictly from Facebook," she explained.
"There are people that I'm in hiding from when these actions happened to me when I was a teenager. My name being blasted out there, you know, especially, I didn't realize this until this morning that the town that I live in was also posted on this."
Several other victims said they felt "humiliated and hurt" and that it would take "a lot more than a phone call from Heitkamp to make things better."
Some of the women, led by one of the victims, Megan Stoltz, have banded together and are looking into taking legal action against Heitkamp.
According to Rob Port, Stoltz was "actually listed twice in the ad, once by her married name and once by her maiden name."
Stoltz said in a Facebook post:
Heidi Heitkamp’s political agenda has interfered with, or downright ruined, our lives. Survivors of assault who had taken care to avoid the subject were suddenly bombarded by questions asking them to explain to their loved ones why their name appeared on this list. Women who have never been assaulted spent the day reassuring loved ones of their safety. All of us have been unsettled by the knowledge that our full names and locations have been publicly announced, particularly after it has reached national news.
Our privacy was violated on this day, and we deserve closure. In order to receive the closure we need, we are searching for a lawyer who will take our case.
“We have about 22 in the group,” Stoltz told Port. “We are looking for a lawyer. We just need to find one who will actually take the case. We’ve called around but most lawyers aren’t interested in politics."
Port had previously identified 13 women who were wrongly named in Heitkamp's ad. That number appears to have grown.