by Jonathan Martin
Barack Obama's campaign earlier this month sought to find a rape victim to appear in a campaign commercial, according to an e-mail obtained by Politico.
Kiersten Stewart, director of public policy at the Family Violence Prevention Fund, served as a conduit between the campaign and victims and women's advocates.
"Obviously, this is a big ask and I haven’t seen a script but presumably it will be a brief 'this is what happened to me, we need someone who will fight for women like me, these are the guys to do it,'" Stewart wrote in a Sept. 15 e-mail. "Again, that’s just my assumption, given how these things usually go."
Stewart, a former top aide to Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), said the Obama campaign would have a crew in Washington and was hoping to film that week.
She didn't respond to a message.
The Obama campaign wouldn't detail the strategy behind finding an individual to discuss such a sensitive topic but did suggest the ad may be aimed at underscoring their candidate's support for abortion rights and ongoing effort to retain those women who backed Hillary Clinton in the primary.
"Choice is an important issue, and we're going to continue talking about it in battleground states through the election," said spokesman Bill Burton.
Virginia is one of those swing states that Obama is especially focused on, and that's where one rape victim received the request to appear in an ad.
Mikele Shelton-Knight declined to do so, but said in an interview that she was glad the Obama campaign was seeking to highlight the issue.
"The more discussion about this the better," said Shelton-Knight, a full-time victims advocate in the Richmond area.
And though she never was told about the nature of the commercial, Shelton-Knight said she thought that the focus of the ad may be about the practice in Wasilla, Alaska, to charge rape victims to pay for their own exams.
The law was on the books when Sarah Palin became mayor of the small city, and it's unclear whether she supported it or opposed it during her tenure.
But Shelton-Knight said Palin should not be criticized for having governed a city with such a law as they were quite common until recent years.
Alaska didn't pass a bill until 2000 requiring state and local law endorcement to pay for the exams. And Shelton-Knight said it wasn't until lobbying by her and others that Virginia last year put the financial burden on localities. Many states still charge victims for the cost of the exam.