After her opponent, North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer, slammed #MeToo as a “movement toward victimization” and suggested the women is his family are tougher than sexual assault survivors, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp tearfully relayed the story of her mother’s own assault as a teenager.
In an interview with The New York Times published Monday, Cramer said, “You’re just supposed to believe somebody because they said it happened.” It was a clear allusion to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who alleged that now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers, but also to any woman who comes forward and asks to be believed.
Cramer went on to invoke his mother, daughters, wife, and mother-in-law, saying, “They cannot understand this movement toward victimization. They are pioneers of the prairie. These are tough people whose grandparents were tough and great-grandparents were tough.”
Asked about those comments by the newspaper, Heitkamp hit back at Cramer with a deeply emotional response, saying her own mother was sexually assaulted when she was a teenager, the damage of which affected her throughout her life. She told the Times:
“The better part of my career in public life has been working with victims,” said Ms. Heitkamp, a former state attorney general. “Did you ask him how many victims during this process he actually sat down with, and survivors he sat down with, and visited with personally?”
Then Ms. Heitkamp’s voice grew thick with emotion.
“I think it’s wonderful that his wife has never had an experience, and good for her, and it’s wonderful his mom hasn’t,” she said. “My mom did. And I think it affected my mom her whole life. And it didn’t make her less strong.”
With tears welling in her eyes, Ms. Heitkamp stared intently at a reporter and continued: “And I want you to put this in there, it did not make my mom less strong that she was a victim. She got stronger and she made us strong. And to suggest that this movement doesn’t make women strong and stronger is really unfortunate.”
Heitkamp also acknowledged to supporters at a Sunday evening fundraiser that “it has been a tough week for me.” The latter part of the senator’s week was dominated by her decision to vote no on Kavanaugh’s confirmation—a move that could doom her re-election bid—and the judge being confirmed to the Supreme Court on Saturday.
The senator’s remarks emphasized yet again just how personal the issues central to the opposition to Kavanaugh are to so many women. Still, Republicans and their Democratic allies roundly refused to listen.