While recounting her harrowing experience of having to seek shelter during the Capitol insurrection during an Instagram Live video on Monday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed that she is a sexual assault survivor and that the traumatic experience on January 6 brought up a lot of emotions from her past experience.
“I’m a survivor of sexual assault,” she said with emotion filling her voice. “And I haven’t told many people that in my life. But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other.”
The congresswoman didn’t go into further detail about her past experience, only to say that the insurrection triggered these feelings to come rushing back. Those who have argued that it is time for the US to move on from events that took place at the Capitol building, Ocasio-Cortez said, were “using the same tactics of every other abuse who just tells you to move on.” She continued, suggesting these tactics were, “of that man who touched you inappropriately at work, telling you to move on.”
“Are they going to believe you?” she said. “Or the adult who, you know, if they hurt you when you were a child and you grow up and you confront them about it, and they try to tell you that what happened never happened.”
During the Instagram Live, which held an audience of more than 150,000 for much of its duration, Ocasio-Cortez revealed that she took refuge in California Rep. Katie Porter’s office as she heard pro-Trump rioters yelling, “Where is she?”
In meticulous detail, she described how she was forced to hide in a bathroom from the violent mob before hunkering down with Porter, at multiple points thinking, “that I was going to die.” While being interviewed by MSNBC, Porter corroborated AOC’s story saying that she remembers trying to find Ocasio-Cortez a pair of shoes. “I was wearing flats and I remember her saying to me: ‘I knew I shouldn’t have worn heels. How am I going to run?’’ said Porter. “And we went and we found a pair of sneakers to wear from one of my staffers so that she could run if she needed to literally run for her life.”
This isn’t the first time that Ocasio-Cortez has recounted her experience during the insurrection. Previously, she described being unsure if she would make it to the end of the day alive, and feeling unsafe around fellow members of Congress “because there were QAnon and white supremacist sympathizers and, frankly, white supremacist members of Congress in that extraction point who I know, and who I felt would disclose my location, who would create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, etc.”
On Twitter Monday night, AOC drove her point home: “My story isn’t the only story, nor is it the central story of what happened on Jan 6th,” she tweeted. “It is just one story of many of those whose lives were endangered at the Capitol by the lies, threats, and violence fanned by the cowardice of people who chose personal gain above democracy.”
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).