GRAND FORKS — On Sunday’s edition of “Meet the Press,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp recounted a confrontation with a law enforcement officer who seemed to defend domestic violence.
Heitkamp appeared on the news program alongside other women in the Senate to share their “#MeToo” stories -- often episodes from their lives where they’ve faced sexual assault or harassment. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., recalled when, as a junior law professor, a colleague attempted to sexually assault her in his office. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, recounted a moment from her state legislative career when a senior lawmaker asked if she brought her “kneepads.”
Heitkamp, who served as North Dakota attorney general from 1992 to 2000, recalled an interaction with a retired law enforcement official from that period.
“I was talking about what happens to women and what happens when there’s violence in the home,” Heitkamp said. “After I got done, (he) came up to me, and he pretty much put his finger in my face, and he said, ‘Listen here. Men will always beat their wives, and you can’t stop ‘em.’
“And I was so stunned, because I thought, everyone’s going to care about this the way I do. Everybody’s going to think about this the way I do. And I looked at him and I said, ‘You know, you might be right. I hope you’re not right. But we shouldn’t live in a world where we don’t try.’”
The segment on “Meet the Press” comes after a deluge of accusations against Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood media mogul who was reported in the New York Times and the New Yorker to have assaulted numerous women. On social media, women have begun sharing personal stories of sexual assault or similarly charged confrontations under the hashtag “#MeToo.”
MTP host Chuck Todd cited the surge of stories in introducing the segment, for which he said the news program approached all 21 women serving in the U.S. Senate. Four women responded: Heitkamp, McCaskill, Warren and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii.
In a Monday statement, Heitkamp said she’s proud of women who have shared their stories.
“There’s been a coarseness in our political discourse that adds to that kind of permission to be disrespectful,” Heitkamp’s statement said. “This is about more than changing laws or punishing certain behavior – both of these are important -- but it requires a comprehensive cultural change to instill the values that say as a society this is not okay and this not acceptable.
“I hope more women now feel empowered to speak up and to defend their right to live free of harassment and assault.”