Mark Harris for BuzzFeed News; Alamy; Getty Images

Madison Cawthorn arrived at Patrick Henry College’s small Christian campus in northern Virginia in fall 2016 blazing with charm, bravado, and a flashing white smile. His former classmates said the future member of Congress would whip his white Dodge Challenger into the parking lot and regale his classmates with the story of how he survived a harrowing car crash as a teen, which left him paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair for life. After his intensive recovery, he was older than most students — 21 — and didn’t fit the mold of the Christian and largely sheltered first-year students who chose the conservative school in Purcellville because of its commitment to God and rigorous academics. And, former Patrick Henry students said, it didn’t take long for women on campus to start warning one another: You don’t want to be alone with him, especially in his car.

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 these women now works as an intern for another Republican member of Congress and passes Cawthorn in the corridors of the Capitol. 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.

“I just felt so uncomfortable and nervous and not even something I think at the time I could put a finger on, but just, like, danger warning.”

“I realized he was taking me out to the middle of nowhere, Virginia,” said Caitlin Coulter, a former classmate who went for a drive with him during her senior year. “We were on these small, like, one- [or] two-lane back roads, and I just felt so uncomfortable and nervous and not even something I think at the time I could put a finger on, but just, like, danger warning.”

BuzzFeed News sent Cawthorn a detailed list of allegations in this story. His communications director, Micah Bock, did not respond to the specific allegations but instead referred BuzzFeed News to remarks the young Republican had made during a campaign debate in September: “I have never done anything sexually inappropriate in my life,” Cawthorn said.

“If I have a daughter, I want her to grow up in a world where people know to explicitly ask before touching her,” he said at the debate. “If I had a son, I want him to be able to grow up in a world where he would not be called a sexual predator for trying to kiss someone.”

Cawthorn wears a suit and sits in a wheelchair against a blurred background in a Capitol corridor
Graeme Sloan / Sipa USA via AP

Cawthorn at the US Capitol, Feb. 3.

Today, Cawthorn is a 25-year-old first-year member of Congress, the youngest ever elected, from Hendersonville, North Carolina. In the 2020 primary, he pulled off a surprising upset over Republican Lynda Bennett, former president Donald Trump’s preferred candidate, by leaning into Trump’s own strategy: bombastic attacks against the left and open support for conspiracy theories.

Cawthorn has made his Christian faith a central part of his political identity, going so far as to say in an interview with Jewish Insider soon after winning his race last November that he has tried to convert Jewish and Muslim people to Christianity. “The Lord and the Bible and the value systems I’ve gotten through Judeo-Christian values,” he said, “it affects every single decision I make.” He also posts often about his faith on Instagram, sharing photos of the Bible and writing about how much prayer and the Lord uplift and guide him through life’s “battlefields.”

If you have more information about this story, contact these reporters at addy.baird@buzzfeed.com or brianna.sacks@buzzfeed.com, or see other ways to send tips here.

Cawthorn fraternized with rising far-right stars prior to his election and has posted photos and gym selfies with QAnon supporters Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene and other members of the Patriot movement, a collection of extremist, nationalistic groups that have taken root within the Republican Party.

Charismatic and active on Twitter and Telegram, the new lawmaker, like the former president and his allies, has worked to build an image of himself as a “true patriot” whose mission is to drain the swamp and protect his supporters from the radical left while standing up for members of the military — despite the fact that he lied about his future at the Naval Academy. He was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention last summer, and in recent months, he’s gained notoriety for being at the forefront of the effort to overturn the results of the presidential election, brazenly perpetuating lies about voter fraud, many of which he’s since walked back after a backlash.

Bill Clark / AP

Cawthorn speaks to Trump supporters at the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, DC, Jan. 6.

The newly elected lawmaker also spoke at the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally just before the Capitol insurrection, where he told cheering Trump supporters that the “crowd has some fight in it” and that Democrats and Republicans were “trying to silence your voice.” He doesn’t regret that comment, he’s said, but like other Trumpian firebrands who know when to toe the line between traditional, palatable conservatism and far-right extremism, Cawthorn condemned the rioters, calling their actions “despicable.”

Long before Cawthorn’s persona as a poster child for the new right gained national traction, people who went to school with him at Patrick Henry College said they were stunned as they watched him ascend in the North Carolina race. They told BuzzFeed News they remember him as one of the only Trump supporters on their small conservative campus, where he developed a reputation for mistreating women at the school, according to more than two dozen former students.

Trump, meanwhile, was making his name in politics with relentless gendered attacks on Hillary Clinton, then–Fox News host Megyn Kelly, and Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi. The Access Hollywood tape in which Trump described “grabbing [women] by the pussy” was released a few months after Cawthorn started at Patrick Henry.

As Cawthorn’s own political career took off, his former classmates expressed shock and dismay in private Facebook groups and text messages seen by BuzzFeed News; they said he had been “chauvinistic” on campus just a few years before and discussed female students’ sexual misconduct allegations against him.

Some came forward during his campaign to share their experiences with Cawthorn on social media and in private. Last August, World magazine published the accounts of three women who said the young conservative sexually harassed and verbally assaulted them. One of these women was among those who spoke to BuzzFeed News for this story. Cawthorn has unequivocally denied the accusations, telling the Daily Caller the story was a “mix of half-truths, untruths and potentially fabricated allegations.”

Then, in October, more than 160 members of the Patrick Henry community signed an open letter detailing “gross misconduct towards our female peers, public misrepresentation of his past, disorderly conduct that was against the school’s student honor code, and self-admitted academic failings,” including that Cawthorn “established a reputation of predatory behavior.” After the letter was published, Cawthorn told ABC 13 that it was based on rumors, and his campaign wrote in a Facebook post that he had the endorsement of a “significant number of PHC alumni and former students who knew him well.” The post was signed by just six people. Two worked for the campaign and a third was one of their relatives.

Patrick Henry officials, including the school’s president, ignored repeated emails and calls from BuzzFeed News regarding Cawthorn’s alleged sexual misconduct and behavioral problems. The only official to respond was Paul Yancey, the campus security chief, who declined to comment on questions about the alleged misbehavior.

While Cawthorn has painted women’s accounts of sexual misconduct and predatory behavior as politically motivated lies, this new investigation into his time at Patrick Henry College provides an in-depth examination of the allegations against the North Carolina representative and uncovers previously unreported details. More than 20 former Patrick Henry students told BuzzFeed News that Cawthorn harassed his women 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. Although Cawthorn was only at the school for just over one semester, students said he quickly developed a reputation as someone who took advantage of and mistreated women.

But former classmates also remember Cawthorn as magnetic and ambitious, delivering almost-too-firm handshakes, buddying up with nearly everyone he met, and flirting with and befriending many women classmates. A former high school football player and avid athlete — his Instagram feed is peppered with videos in which he claimed he was training for the 2020 Paralympic Games, which wasn’t true — Cawthorn exuded a jock persona at school, classmates said. He soon formed a small posse of guys, which seven former students told BuzzFeed News was known around campus as the “the douche crew.”

Eight people line up and pose in front of a Christmas tree
Diego Lastra

Cawthorn (far right) with Diego Lastra (third from left), Micah Bock (third from right), and Blake Harp (second from right) at a 2016 Christmas ball

Students also said they were known for speeding around the small campus in their loud sports cars and pulling destructive pranks. Two of his best friends at Patrick Henry, Micah Bock and Blake Harp, later became integral parts of his congressional campaign, managing his communications and social media. They are now Cawthorn’s top aides in Congress, serving as his communications director and chief of staff, respectively.

According to former students familiar with the conversations, accounts of Cawthorn’s behavior in fall 2016 quickly became a topic of concern for the school’s resident assistants, the student leaders who lived in and managed the dorms, fulfilling responsibilities like enforcing the school’s honor code and student life policies and leading Bible studies twice a week.

Two RAs told BuzzFeed News that soon after Cawthorn arrived at PHC, they began to warn the women students in their dorms to try to avoid him and to say no if he ever asked them to go for a ride with him in his Challenger.

If you have more information about this story, contact these reporters at addy.baird@buzzfeed.com or brianna.sacks@buzzfeed.com, or see other ways to send tips here.

“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 who warned her students. “Our school was filled with girls from a Christian background, and there was a high level of naivety.”

A third RA, Philip Bunn, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that he heard “from female RAs that they were telling girls to avoid [Cawthorn].”

Becca Webb, now a teacher for students with special needs in Lawrenceville, Georgia, remembers her RA making it clear that she should keep her distance from Cawthorn, and to “make sure we told the other girls, too.”

Soon, Giovanna said students in her dorm and friend circles began having traumatizing encounters with him that left them shaken and upset. One encounter the 27-year-old remembers vividly was that of Caitlin Coulter.

Caitlin, sitting in a darkened room, looks to her left into sunlight
Eman Mohammed for BuzzFeed News

Caitlin Coulter, a PhD student and graduate instructor at the University of Kentucky, at her home in Lexington, Kentucky

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.

“It was really scary,” she said. “And just I remember just being very happy to make it back home safely.”

Giovanna, the former RA, was there when Coulter got back to the dorm that evening. She remembers Coulter looking confused, not knowing what to make of what had happened to her.

“She was shaken up,” Giovanna 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.”

“I remember just being very happy to make it back home safely.”

Coulter said she was embarrassed by the experience and couldn’t put her finger on why it felt “gross” to her, but said that Cawthorn never texted her again and she tried to avoid him for the rest of his time at Patrick Henry. In summer 2019 while staying with a friend, prior to Cawthorn’s congressional campaign, she said she opened up about what had happened that night.

Her friend, a fellow PHC alum who asked to remain anonymous due to her job that prevents her from speaking publicly, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Coulter had told her about the experience, and recalled that they got to talking about Cawthorn.

“He had a nice car and stuff like that, but he just kind of always seemed a little bit slimy, I guess. He was good-looking and he knew it, so you could kind of tell that he used that to his advantage,” Coulter’s friend told BuzzFeed News.

Coulter’s friend also lived with a junior student who dated and then was briefly engaged to Cawthorn during his short time on campus. Nearly every Patrick Henry student who spoke to BuzzFeed News brought up their engagement. Friends recalled that they were worried about her in the relationship. In a 2017 deposition related to a lawsuit with an insurer over his car accident, first brought to light in 2020 by Asheville Watchdog, Cawthorn said this woman was “more reserved and she likes to take her time on things, think things through a lot. And I’m much more passionate and I like to do things quickly.” She broke up with him and he then withdrew from the school out of “heartbreak,” he told the attorneys at the time.

Through her family, Cawthorn’s former fiancé declined to comment for this story.

A large brick building with columns stands in the distance at the end of a grassy field
Eman Mohammed for BuzzFeed News

The campus of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia

At first, Leah Petree, a current Republican intern on Capitol Hill and former PHC student, said she thought that Cawthorn’s pestering to take her on a “fun drive” during their classes was largely just annoying. But soon, she said, he started to get in her face more, grabbing her notebook during one class and scribbling across the page, asking her to go out with him. Petree told BuzzFeed News that Cawthorn persisted for weeks, despite her repeatedly reminding him that she had a boyfriend. She said he didn’t stop.

Outside her dorm, there was a parking spot reserved for drivers with disabilities, and Cawthorn would often park outside her building and call out to her while she crossed campus, asking her to join him on a drive. Petree said she grew so uncomfortable that she would check if he was outside before leaving the building.

“It caused different lifestyle changes like that,” said Petree, who also described his attempts to speak with her during class as distracting and embarrassing. “That’s unfortunate and certainly unacceptable.”

Petree and many other students who attended Patrick Henry with Cawthorn said the way he acted was a far cry from how he presented himself during campus events and in speeches. In interviews, nearly everyone said one particular moment stood out.

School officials invited the first-year student to speak in chapel in January 2017, a rare honor usually reserved for seniors. During his address, of which BuzzFeed News obtained audio, Cawthorn told the entire student body, as well as some professors and staffers, a compelling and terrifying story about the day his life changed: a car crash on the way back from a spring break trip in 2014 that left him paralyzed and questioning God. In his telling in the chapel, Cawthorn said that his best friend, his “brother,” escaped and ran to safety, leaving him unconscious to die “in a fiery tomb” with flames licking his legs. The crash, he said, also ruined his plans of attending the Naval Academy. Heading to Annapolis to serve the country was an integral part of his story and eventually became a prominent line in multiple interviews, campaign speeches, and ads.

But the students didn’t find out he was misleading them about his life-changing moment until last year, when Asheville Watchdog published the 2017 deposition in which Cawthorn said he had been rejected from the academy before he was injured and that his best friend had actually pulled him out of the car and saved his life.

Both Petree and Coulter said that after their private encounters with Cawthorn, it was tough to sit in the chapel in 2017 and listen to him talk about his relationship with the Lord and get emotional about his purpose as a Christian.

“Having to sit and listen to this man on a stage speak to us about his closeness with God or the events in his life, and knowing our experience with him, was really disappointing,” Petree said.

Although he presented himself as cool and affable, Cawthorn had a temper, former classmates said. He would snap and yell, often hurling derogatory remarks at women in what more than five PHC alumni said was part of his pattern of behavior.

“And all of a sudden, he snaps at me in a tone and with a degree of anger that no man has ever spoken to me since or before then.”

At a basketball game in 2017, after Cawthorn left the school, Webb, the teacher, said she was trying to get the crowd to cheer on their team when he bellowed out at her, “Shut up, woman!” Two people told BuzzFeed News about the interaction and one of Webb’s best friends said it was part of a “rude and misogynistic” pattern.

A few months earlier, in fall 2016, Petree said she had a similar experience while eating in the dining hall in a booth with several other students, including Cawthorn, Bock, and Harp. According to Petree and two other people who were present, Cawthorn began asking people at the table about how many people they had kissed or had physical relationships with, asking specifically about their previous partners’ races. After an awkward exchange about Petree not wanting to be with men shorter than her, Petree and the other people present said Cawthorn became aggressive.

“And all of a sudden, he snaps at me in a tone and with a degree of anger that no man has ever spoken to me since or before then. He snaps at me that I was just a ‘little blonde slutty American girl’ and yells this to me across the table, at a table of our peers — our Christian, conservative peers — all over a comment in response to an inappropriate, just astounding conversation that he's initiated,” Petree said.

She walked out of the dining hall with her friend. Diego Lastra, Giovanna’s younger brother who had also been present, followed. Diego had hung out with Cawthorn and his friends for about a semester when they were all first-year students and remembers checking on Petree after the “slutty” comment to see if she was OK. Diego said repeated instances of that type of behavior by Cawthorn led him to pull away from the group.

When they had hung out, Diego said, it felt like the frat that his college didn’t have. He said the guys would make vulgar jokes. One day at the start of the spring semester, Diego, then 18, said Cawthorn was driving him and some of their friends back to his house to a party when Cawthorn asked, “Which race of girls gives the best blowjobs?” Cawthorn then interrupted him, Diego said, answering his own question: “White girls are the worst, Black girls are second, Asian girls are the best.” Another PHC student who was in the car confirmed the story.

Diego and the other PHC student said the boys in Cawthorn’s circle would brag about these late-night drives and tell stories about touching women, framing it like they were “conquests.” Diego said that Cawthorn 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 said he remembered Cawthorn saying, “Girls like that stuff.”

There have been other accounts of Cawthorn engaging in inappropriate touching. Katrina Krulikas and Francesca McDaniel, neither of whom attended Patrick Henry, told World magazine that he forcibly kissed them, while a PHC alumnus told the magazine that he grabbed her thigh beneath her dress — an incident two of that woman’s friends told BuzzFeed News she told them about at the time.

Katrina sits and looks to her right in a headshot
Courtesy of Katrina Krulikas

Katrina Krulikas

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.”

Krulikas said some of her hair got stuck in Cawthorn’s wheelchair when he grabbed her, and to free herself, she had to rip out some of her hair from her scalp.

She recalled that after he drove her back to where her car was parked, she texted a friend that she had a “really bad feeling” about the date and that Cawthorn had given her “rapey vibes.” BuzzFeed News spoke with two friends of Krulikas’s who said she had told them about the experience — one soon after the date and the other in summer 2019 — before she made any public statement.

Cawthorn and his friends turned staffers have downplayed and defended his behavior. On the afternoon of Election Day 2020, a PHC alumnus showed up to a polling center in River, North Carolina, to inform voters about the allegations of sexual misconduct against Cawthorn. In a filmed exchange obtained by BuzzFeed News, the former student approaches Cawthorn and then lists off the names of women whom he had allegedly harassed. Cawthorn’s sunny demeanor instantly changes, and he replies, “What you are saying is categorically false. I have never preyed on a woman. I treat every woman with honor, dignity, and respect.”

In another recorded conversation from that afternoon, Bock, his communications manager, disagreed that Cawthorn had harassed or assaulted women. In the exchange, Bock says that before he started working on the campaign he spoke with the women Cawthorn went out with at PHC to get their accounts and then met with his friend to “see if their stories lined up.”

“I came to the conclusion that, yeah, [Cawthorn] kissed some people, but I don’t think kissing is sexual assault,” Bock says in the video obtained by BuzzFeed News. “I don’t think kissing someone is the equivalent of sexual assault in any context.”

According to messages viewed by BuzzFeed News, Cawthorn also reached out to Krulikas on Feb. 3, 2020, after a text exchange when one of her friends replied to what she believed was an automated campaign text asking for her vote saying she would not vote for Cawthorn because he had assaulted her friend. Soon, however, Cawthorn texted Krulikas to apologize for kissing her against her will.

“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 in the text. “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.”

If you have more information about this story, contact these reporters at addy.baird@buzzfeed.com or brianna.sacks@buzzfeed.com, or see other ways to send tips here.

Despite Cawthorn’s apology to Krulikas, Bock, in his statement to BuzzFeed News for this story, referred to the denials Cawthorn made in the campaign debate of ever doing “anything sexually inappropriate.” Bock also brushed off the claims made in this story, falsely saying they all had been previously raised.

“These questions were repeatedly asked and answered during the course of the campaign. The voters of Western North Carolina responded to these allegations by giving Madison Cawthorn a 12-point victory over his opponent,” Bock said. “Rep. Cawthorn is now busy doing the work he was elected to do including helping our economy recover from the pandemic, creating jobs and opportunity, making health care more affordable, protecting our natural environment and defending life and our Second Amendment rights.”

But Bock himself allegedly engaged in nonconsensual physical contact, according to Petree, the current Republican intern at the Capitol. She said Bock repeatedly pressed his body — first his arm and later his genitals against her — while she slept at a house with friends after a pool party in 2016 that Cawthorn did not attend.

Petree said she had dodged Bock’s touches all night and that she told a friend who attended the party with her to sleep next to her specifically to keep him away from her. But when she woke up in the middle of the night, it was his body that was pressed against hers, his arm wrapped around her.

“I remember physically taking his arm and being like, ‘What are you doing?’ Like, physically picking it up and pushing it off of me and going, ‘You need to stop. Like, stop,’” she recalled.

But when she woke up a few hours later, Petree said Bock was still there, curved around her like a spoon. “I could feel, like, hard genitalia. It was that level of, like, I could feel him pressed into me and just being like, no,” Petree said.

Later that day, she said she got a message from Bock, who asked how she was doing.

“He says to me, ‘You definitely weren't really asleep. You wanted it,’” she recalled. “That's what he tells me. And I just remember being like getting in this text battle with him being like, what are you talking about?”

Her boyfriend and the friend whom Petree said she asked to sleep next to her each told BuzzFeed News that she told them about the incident the next morning.

Later that school year, Petree’s boyfriend, Preston Burgess, came to visit her at Patrick Henry. He told BuzzFeed News that when he met Bock, he refused to shake Bock’s hand and that Bock then told him that she had been “asking for it.”

In a text message to BuzzFeed News, Bock said that Petree’s allegation was “completely untrue.” He did not respond to further requests for an interview or more detailed comment.

Petree’s mother, Rebecca Powell, recalled to BuzzFeed News that her daughter told her about the incident a few months later. Powell, a self-described Republican and Christian, said her daughter had told her that Bock had been “sexually aggressive” and that he came up behind her at the party and was “grinding on her with his hard-on.”

“It was very upsetting, as an older woman, to hear what she was describing as a young virginal girl at this point,” said Powell.

In March 2018, Powell said she met with the dean of student life to discuss concerns she had about her daughters at the school. (A March 26, 2018, email reviewed by BuzzFeed News shows Powell thanking a school official for having met with her.) After that meeting, she said she decided to confront Bock herself and went into the men’s dorm. She said she asked him, “Who do you think you are touching my daughter this way? You can’t sexually harass my daughter.”

“Why don’t you touch me like you touched my daughter?” she said she told Bock. “I was pushing him around the room with my presence. Trying to make him feel like he made my daughter feel.”

Powell recalled Bock told her that she was wrong and that it had all been a misunderstanding. (Bock and the school did not respond to a request for comment).

An empty two-lane road cuts through a forest of dead trees
Eman Mohammed for BuzzFeed News

A back road near the Patrick Henry College campus in Purcellville, Virginia

While his former classmates said Cawthorn had a reputation on campus, it wasn’t until he began his run for office that his peers began to open up about how they said he had treated them during his brief time at their school. After just over one semester, Cawthorn did not return to campus. In depositions, he said it was due to “heartbreak” over his fiancé leaving him and that he was earning mostly D grades.

As the election drew closer, the Patrick Henry alumni grew increasingly concerned, according to screenshots of chats from a private PHC Facebook group reviewed by BuzzFeed News, that Cawthorn could win the race for North Carolina’s 11th District and end up in Washington as a lawmaker. For many of them, sharing their claims of harassment — especially in a conservative, Christian space against a former classmate running for Congress as a standard-bearer of their own party — was, and is, terrifying. Several women told BuzzFeed News that they were too afraid to talk because of what Cawthorn and his allies might do, given how small their circles are. But many others said they felt that speaking out was a moral obligation that transcended politics.

“Our college was full of very conservative people. A lot of them worked in the White House under Trump,” said Webb, the teacher for students with special needs. “And the students that signed the letter were Republicans, Democrats, or anyone in between. They disagreed constantly on our Facebook group, but found common ground in not wanting Madison to be elected. He does not embody the values important to us as former PHC students.”

Coulter, who helped draft the letter many PHC alumni signed onto denouncing Cawthorn during his campaign, said she can’t help but feel discouraged that voters elected him.

“I think that it is important that the people in power have integrity…or have the qualifications necessary,” she said. “My experiences with Madison Cawthorn have demonstrated that he doesn’t have those.” ●

“Danger Warning”: Women Say Madison Cawthorn Harassed Them In College

BuzzFeed News interviewed more than three dozen people as part of an investigation into allegations that Madison Cawthorn harassed women in college.