A screenshot of the new Beshear ad. Hadley Duvall chose to be identified and has spoken out publicly about what she experienced and its connection to the debate over abortion, reports the Associated Press.
Hadley Duvall, a 21-year-old from Owensboro, said speaking about her experience with sexual abuse amid debates on abortion rights is a calling for her.
That’s why Duvall is appearing in an ad for Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s reelection campaign. After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, Duvall began publicly sharing her story about the sexual abuse she experienced as a child.
In the campaign ad, Duvall speaks directly to the camera and slams Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron for his support of Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban.
“This is to you, Daniel Cameron,” she says. “To tell a 12-year-old girl she must have the baby of her stepfather who raped her is unthinkable.”
The ad with Duvall is the Beshear campaign’s second taking Cameron to task on abortion. The first ad, released earlier this month, features a Jefferson County prosecutor who claims that Cameron believes 9-year-old rape victims “should be forced to give birth.”
In a Wednesday telephone interview with the Kentucky Lantern, Duvall said someone from her hometown asked her if she would share her story with the team who made the campaign ad, which was filmed in July. It was an easy decision, she said.
While she would not have been in a place to share her story as a child, Duvall said now she can handle it, even if it is difficult to be vulnerable.
“It’s not just a statistic that people want to throw out there,” Duvall said. “I’m a real person, and it’s a real story.”
Cameron, who has a history of highlighting his opposition to abortion, has defended Kentucky’s abortion ban in court. The law only allows abortions up to six weeks of pregnancy and does not include exceptions in cases of rape and incest.
Duvall said that she first discussed the abuse as a freshman in high school. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, she made a social media post publicly sharing her experience.
“Once I found my voice, I’ve never really lost it,” she said. “I’m really passionate about helping other survivors and other victims and just doing what I can to help the people who go through what I went through.”
Kentucky’s abortion ban was a trigger law, meaning it went into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Duvall said that she felt anger that day. Duvall said she grew angry hearing people she knew saying they agreed with the court’s decision.
“It just made me really angry, and I just kept thinking about the little girl that I used to be when I was sitting there staring at a positive pregnancy test at 12 years old,” Duvall said. “Because I mean as soon as you see that you instantly think, ‘OK, what am I going to do?’ You start thinking about your options. And right now, if a girl or a woman is going through that, they don’t really have options.”
Since first speaking publicly about the abuse, Duvall said she has gotten a lot of support, especially from other survivors of sexual abuse. As for the reaction to the ad over the last week, Duvall said that the most meaningful part has been hearing from women and girls thanking her for helping them find their voices and strength.
When it comes to negative reactions online, Duvall said she had tried to not look at them.
“What I’m doing is for the women and the girls, so the people that speak negative on it don’t really deserve any of my attention,” she said. “But overall, I’ve just seen a lot of people talk about how important it is to bring this up into the light.”
Days before the ad featuring Duvall aired, Cameron said in a radio interview that if elected he would sign legislation adding exceptions of rape and incest to Kentucky’s abortion law if the General Assembly passed it. A spokesperson for his campaign said when asked for clarification that he continues to support the law as it is now but “if the situation in Kentucky were to change and the legislature brought him a bill to add exceptions for rape and incest, he would, of course, sign it.”
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported Wednesday that Cameron indicated he would only add the exceptions “if the courts made us change that law” during a recent campaign stop.
Hadley said she did not find Cameron’s change of position “genuine,” given his past support of the current law and with only weeks left ahead of the general election in November.
After the ad with Duvall aired, David Walls, the executive director of conservative public policy organization The Family Foundation, told LEX 18 in an interview about the ad that the organization believes “the value of a human being is never determined by how the child is conceived, however tragic it might be.” When asked about the interview, Duvall said that victims still deserve a choice.
“How can anybody tell a child what they’re capable of doing when they’re not the ones standing in their shoes?” she said. “So, I think that it’s your choice because the trauma itself alone, of going through the rape and the sexual abuse, that’s lifelong trauma in itself.”
Duvall said she does not believe abortion is a “make or break issue” for most Kentucky voters, but “it is more important than it has been in the past because of the trigger law.”
Now, Duvall is studying psychology, has plans to attend graduate school and wants a career working with trauma victims.
If the law never changes, Hadley said there will continue to be anger in the commonwealth.
“I keep thinking about all the little girls who aren’t speaking up, who are hiding this, and if the law doesn’t change, then they don’t have any choice,” Duvall said. “And that in itself is a nightmare.”
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.