Heitkamp Apologizes for Outing Potential Abuse, Sexual Assault Survivors in Campaign Newspaper Ad

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp / Getty Images
October 16, 2018

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) on Tuesday apologized after her campaign publicly disclosed the names of women identified as "survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or rape," saying she was in the process of "personally apologizing to each of the people impacted" by her newspaper advertisement.

The ad, which was paid for by Heitkamp's campaign, ran in the Bismarck Tribune on Saturday and included the names of dozens of alleged abuse survivors. The open letter to her Republican election opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), purports that some of his recent statements about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's appointment were insensitive. However, at least four women listed in the ad say they did not give consent for their names to be published, according to the blog Say Anything.

"Sexual assault is a serious crime – and one that too many North Dakota women have experienced," Heitkamp said. "In an attempt to bring awareness to this issue and push back against dismissive comments toward sexual assault survivors by Kevin Cramer, our campaign worked with victim advocates to identify women who would be willing sign the letter or share their story."

"We recently discovered that several of the women's names who were provided to us did not authorize their names to be shared or were not survivors of abuse," Heitkamp continued. "I deeply regret this mistake and we are in the process of issuing a retraction, personally apologizing to each of the people impacted by this and taking the necessary steps to ensure this never happens again."

One of the women, Kady Miller of Bismarck, wrote on Facebook that "a lot of these people listed, including me, did not give anyone permission for our names to be posted."

"I don’t even support Heidi Heitkamp and I am not a domestic abuse survivor," she continued.

Miller didn't specify who "a lot of these people listed" included, but one of the other women responded to her Facebook post, saying Heitkamp was "literally sharing false information."

Another woman, Eve Lancaster, said on Facebook that she is "disgusted" and "furious" about being included on the open letter, indicating she also did not give permission to the campaign to use her name.