Survivors of sexual assault are not pawns to be used for political gain

National Organization for Women of New Jersey (NOW-NJ) is disturbed by the use of survivors’ stories by candidates for political gain. Last week a political advertisement and website paid for by the GOP Gubernatorial candidate surfaced, that uses footage of NOW-NJ Treasurer Katie Brennan as she shares her harrowing experience of assault. We applaud Ms. Brennan’s courage in coming forward to enact change in the way survivors of sexual assault are treated within our criminal justice system. Ms. Brennan does not deserve to be further victimized as a pawn in a political campaign by a candidate she does not endorse. Ms. Brennan and NOW-NJ call for the website to be taken down, the ads to be removed from circulation and an apology to be issued to Ms. Brennan.

Below is the statement from Ms. Brennan addressed to the GOP candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor—

“If we keep on making statements and not really doing the work, we are going to be in trouble.”—Tarana Burke, Founder of the MeToo movement.

Jack and Diane—Do the work. Hold people accountable. Hold people accountable when it is not politically expedient. Hold people accountable when they are your friends. There are many ways to hold people accountable without invoking my image without my permission. Do the work for a better New Jersey.

Start with your own campaign—do you have a harassment reporting structure in your own campaign? There are currently three bills stalled in the legislature. What will you do to advance them?



  • S-3389 would require adoption of and training on anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy by campaign committees, and would create an Office on Discrimination and Harassment Prevention to handle the claims/ investigations.
  • S-3077 would require the revision of State Legislature’s anti-harassment policy and specifies the investigation of discrimination and harassment complaint process.
  • S-3078 would codify the State Workplace Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Policy.

Before you hold yourself up as a champion of women, let’s discuss some of your public statements that seek to reverse the progress made in the state. Will you reverse your stance on defunding Planned Parenthood? Will you renounce your anti-LGBTQ statements and commit to advancing intersectional gender equity?

By going public, I did not forfeit the rights to my own story, or end my trauma. I went public as a force for change (see bills S3070, S3071, S3072, S3072, S3073, S3074, S3075, S3076, A5624, A5625, A5631, A5628, and A5632; all now passed and enacted as law). Through these pieces of legislation, we made great strides to protect survivors and increase access to justice. We also made great strides to protect people in the workplace. But we need more than protection, we need prevention.

We need the executive branch, legislative branch, and campaigns to hold themselves accountable. Putting me in an ad was lazy and disrespectful. Take it down. If you truly respect women, do the work.

Katherine Brennan


Download the press release here.