Multiple women have come forward to accuse Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) of sexually harassing them when they were students at Patrick Henry College. The allegations first surfaced when The Daily Caller reported on them in August 2020. But the issue garnered more scrutiny after Buzzfeed News published their report on that matter, interviewing more women who claim to have been treated inappropriately by the lawmaker.
Buzzfeed spoke with a number of individuals who were alleged targets of harassment and those who had firsthand knowledge of the incidents. The author wrote:
BuzzFeed News spoke with more than three dozen people, including more than two dozen former students, their friends, and their relatives, who described or corroborated instances of sexual harassment and misconduct on campus, in Cawthorn’s car, and at his house near campus. Four women told BuzzFeed News that Cawthorn, now a rising Republican star, was aggressive, misogynistic, or predatory toward them. Their allegations include calling them derogatory names in public in front of their peers, including calling one woman “slutty,” asking them inappropriate questions about their sex lives, grabbing their thighs, forcing them to sit in his lap, and kissing and touching them without their consent.
One of the women accusing Cawthorn now works as an intern for another GOP lawmaker. “According to more than a dozen people — including three women who had firsthand experience and seven people who heard about these incidents from them at the time — Cawthorn often used his car as a way to entrap and harass his women classmates, taking them on what he could call ‘fun drives’ off campus. Two said he would drive recklessly and ask them about their virginity and sexual experiences while they were locked in the moving vehicle.”
During the 2020 campaign, some of these women came forward to share their allegations. In an interview with World magazine, they claimed Cawthorn sexually harassed and verbally assaulted them. The representative has categorically denied the allegations. He told The Daily Caller that they were a “mix of half-truths, untruths and potentially fabricated allegations.”
However, over 20 former Patrick Henry students stated that Cawthorn harassed his female classmates. “The students either said they experienced his sexually inappropriate behavior firsthand, comforted friends after a traumatizing incident, or were warned about his conduct by their dorm leaders,” according to Buzzfeed.
The students claimed that the lawmaker’s behavior became an issue shortly after he began attending the school and that RAs started warning female students about him.
“I got info from other RAs to warn the female student body not to go on joy rides with him because bad things happened on those joy rides,” said Giovanna Lastra, one of the former RAs. “Our school was filled with girls from a Christian background, and there was a high level of naivety.”
Caitlin Coulter, one of the women alleging sexual harassment, detailed her story:
It was fall 2016 and Coulter and her boyfriend had recently broken up when she said Cawthorn, a well-known and confident new student, began messaging her. It was a tough, painful time, and she felt isolated and vulnerable. Cawthorn was cute and complimentary, she recalled, so when he asked her to go for a drive, she said yes. But when she was in the car, the energy changed, she told BuzzFeed News. He kept making “insinuations,” she said, asking about the purity ring on her finger, which she felt was an attempt to get her to talk about sex. She said she felt nervous and unsafe. For nearly 20 minutes, she said, she refused to answer the invasive and suggestive questions, shutting him down until he snapped.
He whipped the car around and drove back to campus recklessly, Coulter recalled. She said she had to hold on to her seat for parts of the drive back.
Coulter described the encounter as “really scary” and said she only remembered “being very happy to make it back home safely.”
Giovanna confirmed that Coulter told her about the incident that evening. “She was shaken up,” she said. “She felt unsafe and nervous and said, ‘He didn’t do anything to me, but I was afraid he was going to.’ After that scenario I had to again go through my wing and warn girls not to go in his car because it was dangerous.”
Male students also commented on the story, stating that Cawthorn would often brag about taking female students on these drives. One of the former students, named Diego, stated that the lawmaker “would talk about how he would get women to sit in his lap, and at a party at his house one night, he told a story about a fellow classmate whom he pulled onto his lap and then put his finger in between her legs as she squirmed.”
Diego claimed Cawthorn said, “Girls like that stuff.”
Katrina Krulikas and Francesca McDaniel said he forcibly kissed them when discussing the story with World magazine. Another former student said he grabbed her thigh under her dress. Two of her friends confirmed that she told them about it at the time.
Krulikas, who knew Cawthorn through the small homeschool community in which they both grew up, also spoke with BuzzFeed News for this story. During Cawthorn’s campaign last year, she wrote on Instagram that he had assaulted her in 2014, when she was 17 and he was 19. Cawthorn invited her out and drove her to the spot in the woods, she said. When they got there, he began asking her about her sexual history. She tried to laugh him off, but things got more uncomfortable.
“He ends up asking me to come sit closer to him, sit on his lap. I laughed it off as a joke, and he says he just wants to get closer and talk, so I sit on his lap. At that point he tries to kiss me and I say no,” Krulikas, now 23, told BuzzFeed News. “And we talk a little bit more, and then he ends up grabbing me really quickly, kind of, like, surprisingly, so that I couldn’t really have time to get away.”
In a later text message exchange, Cawthorn contacted Krulikas to apologize for his behavior. “I remember you and I went on a date to that campfire years ago and I remember I asked if I could kiss you, you said no, but I thought you were just being coy and then I really quickly kissed you and that’s all I remember,” he wrote. “I can see in hindsight how that was over the line and I am sorry. Anyways, if I ever made you feel uncomfortable or unsafe I am so sorry. That was never my intention.”
While Cawthorn seems to acknowledge inappropriate conduct in this particular instance, he has denied all other allegations.