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Sexual-Assault Victim Claims Heitkamp Outed Her for ‘Political Gain’

Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D, N.D.) in Jamestown, N.D., April 6, 2018. (Dan Koeck/Reuters )

A North Dakota woman identified as a sexual-assault victim without her consent by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) speculated Thursday that the North Dakota lawmaker included her name in an open letter without her permission for “political gain.”

Lexi Zhorela — a 24-year-old hairdresser named in an open letter about sexual assault sent Monday by Heitkamp to her Republican challenger, Representative Kevin Cramer — told CNN that she couldn’t understand the motivation behind the campaign’s decision to use her name without her permission.

“I would like to ask her . . . how something so reckless and so careless could’ve happened. I still don’t understand how it could have happened — how you could take somebody else’s name without their consent and plaster it all over, wherever you want, just for what? Political gain?” Zhorela said when asked what she would tell Heitkamp if given if given the chance to speak with the senator. “I don’t understand how people think it’s right to just take your name and use it without you knowing about it.”

Heitkamp vowed Tuesday to personally apologize to Zhorela and the twelve other women listed as signees to the letter without their consent — but Zhorela said Thursday that she has not yet heard from the lawmaker. Heitkamp’s campaign then contacted CNN during the segment and reiterated their now two-day-old promise to reach out to Zhorela.

Asked what Heitkamp might do to atone for the error, Zhorela said she couldn’t think of any potential resolutions.

“I don’t know what she [Heitkamp] could do that would make it better,” Zhorela said. “I know that’s why a lot of the people in this situation are reaching out to seek legal counsel because of, you know, what she did is wrong.”

Zhorela, a self-described liberal, said the incident will cost Heitkamp her vote.

“As of right now, she definitely lost my vote,” Zhorela said.

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