“The reason I am now choosing to speak is because Madison is running for North Carolina’s 11th District seat, and is on the path to being the youngest member of Congress,” wrote Katrina Krulikas, Cawthorn’s accuser. “I believe that when you choose to be in the public eye, you should also be prepared to own up to your past mistakes.”
Krilikas, posting under the Instagram handle "katrinaaldona," begins by saying that it has “neither been an easy nor a hasty decision” to come forward, but that she’s contemplated the experience many times in the intervening six years.
“My initial thoughts then were that I was simply put in an uncomfortable situation and would learn from it in the future,” she wrote. “The severity of this situation did not come to light until many years later when I shared with close friends, and came to understand that what took place was not in any way right, nor was it an isolated incident.”
Her story begins in 2014, when she was 17 years old and Cawthorn was 19. According to Aldona, she and Cawthorn were members of the same Christian homeschool community and that he’d asked her out on a date over social media. Together they drove to a secluded field, where they gathered around a bonfire until Cawthorn allegedly directed the conversation to sexual topics, which made Krulikas uncomfortable.
The situation escalated when Cawthorn asked her to sit on his lap. She said she felt “pressured and unsure of how to say no,” so she complied. Cawthorn tried to kiss her, and she rebuffed his advance. Cawthorn repeated the overture, Krulikas said, so she pulled away and became entangled in his chair.
The evening ended, and she never went out with Cawthorn again.
“I remember going on that date with her,” Cawthorn told The Smoky Mountain News on Aug. 15. “I think it was about six or seven years ago. And you know, that was probably the first date I ever went on after my car accident. If I ever made her feel uncomfortable or unsafe, you know, it was never my intention. We went on a date, we had dinner. Then we went by a campfire. I think we were roasting smores.”
Cawthorn admits trying to kiss Krulikas.
“I can tell you that I have respect for every single woman, I believe in the necessity of consent,” he said. “I did try and kiss her just very normal, just in a flirtatious way. As soon as I realized that she didn't want to — I think she pulled back a little bit — the date was over and we continued to sit around the fire for quite a while. I drove her back to her car and everything was normal. I realized she didn't want to pursue a romantic relationship and so I don't think I talked to her very much after that.”
Fast forward to February 2020. In the midst of a contentious Republican primary for the 11th Congressional District seat left vacant by former Rep. Mark Meadows, Krulikas said she received a text from Cawthorn.
“He began by stating that he didn’t remember all of the details of the occurrence,” Krulikas wrote. “He followed with an insincere apology, stating that he did remember attempting to kiss me even after I made it clear I wasn’t interested, excusing it with ‘I thought you were playing coy’ and ‘I can see in hindsight how that was over the line.’”
She noted that the message, which Cawthorn acknowledges, came “ … 6 years after the fact, when his political career is now at stake and he faces the possibility of public scrutiny.” Aldona said she didn’t respond.
“I reached out to her and said, ‘Hey, I just heard that this is how you felt,’” Cawthorn said. “Obviously if I made her feel that way, that’s something I would never want to have happen. That’s something that’s awful, so I wanted to reach out to her just to see if I could apologize, see how she felt. And it just, it made me, made me feel sad.”
Aldona said she’s questioned herself and her story, but she’s never forgotten how the experience left her feeling threatened, belittled and unsettled.
“No I was not raped. Yes, it could have been much worse,” she wrote. “I don’t feel as if I’m a victim. And perhaps that is just one result of society constantly invalidating those who choose to say anything.”
In speaking to a friend about the incident recently, Aldona said she was told that “Sexual assault isn’t relative [and] it’s bad no matter what extent and should be taken seriously.”
She also wrote that as she’s continued to date into adulthood and finds her interaction with men like Cawthorn to be the exception rather than the rule, however, “those who mark this situation off as ‘boys will be boys’ only perpetuate the very serious issue at hand … Deem this situation what you will, but there is no denying that a clear line was crossed.”
Cawthorn, who is currently competing against Asheville Democrat Moe Davis in what’s shaping up to be a tight race, has questions about the timing of Krulikas’ revelations.
“If she had any problem with this, I don’t see why it wouldn’t have been brought up right away,” Cawthorn said. “It just seems like now that the politics are involved, she’s being used as a pawn for the Democratic Party, which is unfortunate.”
The allegations come at the end of a tough week for Cawthorn, who was recently chastised on social media for displaying imagery sometimes used by white supremacist groups. He also caught backlash over an Instagram post of his own made from Adolf Hitler’s mountaintop retreat, and for allowing misinformation to persist about his rejected application from the United States Naval Academy.
“I’m glad that she did state that she doesn’t feel like a victim,” Cawthorn said. “I don’t really know what she was trying to insinuate that I was trying to do, but it’s disappointing that this is coming out. I mean, on Monday I was a white supremacist. On Tuesday I was a Nazi and now, you know, I’m making some girl feel sexually uncomfortable.”
Krulikas summed up her Instagram post with a message of support for those who feel like they’ve ever been in a situation similar to the one she described.
“While the media portrays Madison as a role model for Christian, family values, my experience with him leads me to believe otherwise,” she said. “I want anyone who may be reading this to know that no matter what you believe the severity of your experience to be, it is NEVER okay for any person to put you in a position where you feel threatened and that your consent is being revoked. I want you to know that you are valid, you are believed, and you are not alone.”
Blue Ridge Public Radio's Lilly Knoepp contributed to this report. Katrina Aldona Krulikas did not respond to multiple interview requests made by The Smoky Mountain News.