‘I was drugged and raped’ at Marine Corps ball, Virginia candidate says in new TV ad – By Stephanie Akin (Roll Call) / May 21 2020
Democrat Claire Russo has three opponents in 5th District primary
Claire Russo was attending the Marine Corps ball in 2004 when she was drugged and raped by a superior. And that’s the first thing many voters in Virginia’s 5th District will learn about her, because the Democratic candidate talks about it in a 30-second television ad released Thursday.
“I refused to let him stop me from serving my country in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Russo says in the ad, which describes her efforts to get the rapist jailed after the military declined to prosecute him.
Russo, a former Marine intelligence officer, has spoken publicly about the assault before, including at an Air Force base during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. She also mentions it in the biography on her campaign website. But it is among the first times such an ordeal has played a prominent role in a campaign ad, indicating the strides that female candidates have made in recent years to turn personal experiences once considered inappropriate or unimportant into central issues of their campaigns.
Russo, who is running in a crowded primary in a Republican-held district her party sees as a potential takeover target, lays out the disturbing details over a piano soundtrack and a picture from the night in question. In it she is smiling, surrounded by female friends in formal clothes whose faces have been obscured.
“I was determined to find justice,” Russo says to the camera, over a newspaper clipping with the headline: “They thought it would go away.”