Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed she is a survivor of sexual assault Monday night in an emotional account of the trauma she experienced during the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6 at the US Capitol.
“I’m a survivor of sexual assault and I haven’t told many people that in my life,” Ocasio-Cortez, close to tears, told about 100,000 viewers on Instagram Live.
The New York congresswoman compared the urging of her Republican colleagues to simply “move on” from the attack, while simultaneously demanding unity from Democrats and denying that former president Donald Trump should face consequences for inciting the siege, to tactics used by abusers.
“They’re trying to tell us to move on without any accountability, without any truth-telling, or without confronting the extreme damage, loss of life, trauma,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “The reason I say this, and the reason I’m getting emotional, is because they told us to move on, that it’s not a big deal, that we should forget what happened, or even telling us to apologize.”
She added: “These are the tactics of abusers.”
In discussing the dark event, Ocasio-Cortez related her trauma as a survivor of sexual assault to what she endured as she hid in her office, believing the insurrectionists were attempting to find and potentially harm her.
She shared how she thought her life was in grave danger as supporters of Trump stormed the Capitol, ransacking the building in an attack that ultimately left several people dead.
“All of the sudden I hear that whoever was trying to get inside got into my office,” Ocasio-Cortez said, as she talked about hiding behind the door of her bathroom. “Then I just start to hear these yells of, ‘Where is she? Where is she?’ And I just thought to myself: They got inside.”
This was the moment, Ocasio-Cortez recalled, where she thought “everything was over.”
“I thought I was going to die,” Ocasio-Cortez said, before realizing that the person she initially believed had breached her office was a Capitol police officer.
Ocasio-Cortez, who noted how she was in “fight or flight mode” at the time, said she ended up seeking shelter in Representative Katie Porter’s office. She described banging on a door prior to meeting with Porter, and “fully expecting one of these insurrectionists to turn the corner with a gun and that it would be over — again.”
She compared the mad rush of pushing the furniture up against the door to create a barricade to the school shooting drills an entire generation of students has grown up with. At the same time, Ocasio-Cortez was looking for clothes to change into, out of fear that her normal congressional attire would make her stand out from the crowd in the case she had to escape outside.
Porter ended up lending Ocasio-Cortez her “puffy jacket.”
“I’m fully just bracing for impact for these people to breach the perimeter of our building,” she said.
In the chaos, the pair wondered if some members had safer offices than others simply because they have “white-sounding names or because they have male-sounding names” and pondered “who would be safer to hide with.”
With the amount of uncertainty in the situation, Ocasio-Cortez said she felt going to the same extraction point as other members of Congress felt “legitimately unsafe.” Instead, she elected to stay in Porter’s office for hours.
“There were members who were live-tweeting the location of [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] who were probably going to be in that extraction point,” Ocasio-Cortez said, referencing Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert.
Ocasio-Cortez previously spoke in an Instagram Live earlier this month about how she feared for her life during the attack.
Thanks for making the space for me, and hope we can all make space for others to tell their stories in the weeks to come.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 2, 2021
And to those who wish to paper over their misdeeds by rushing us to all “move on” - we can move on when the individuals responsible are held to account.
“We knew that violence was expected on this day. We knew that that violence was predicated on someone telling the lie, the big lie, about our elections,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We knew all of this in advance.”
She continued, calling out Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley by name, who “knew that it was the lie.”
“They knew that these violent people needed the lie, and they chose, because they thought it would be politically advantageous to them, they chose to tell the lie,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
If those complicit in perpetuating “the lie” had owned up to their actions or apologized, Ocasio-Cortez said her “response would be a little different right now.”
“But no. The response in the last three, four weeks is, ‘We did the right thing. I would do it again ... I don’t regret it at all.’ And so if that is your stance for these insurrectionists and these people who incited the violence, if that’s their stance, then that means they continue to be a danger to their colleagues,” she said.
After detailing her experience, Ocasio-Cortez noted how trauma compounds on trauma and the nuanced difficulties that go into learning how to cope in the aftermath.
She asserted that Republicans insisting people simply move forward without addressing what happened at the Capitol are mimicking the behavior of abusers.
“My story is not the only story, nor is it the central story, it’s one of many stories of what these people did in creating this environment,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
She added: “These folks who are just trying to tell us to move on are just like pulling the page, they’re using the same tactics, of every other abuser who tells you to move on.”