In an Instagram live on Monday evening, Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went public for the first time about being a survivor of sexual assault. While opening up about how traumatising last month’s attack of the US capitol building was, AOC likened those who have tried to downplay how terrifying the situation was – telling her to “move on” and get over it – to those who downplay both accusations from survivors of sexual assault and the ongoing work that comes with healing from any kind of trauma.
While speaking about the attack on January 6th, when a group of violent Trump supporters stormed the building where AOC and other members of parliament were, the 31-year-old started getting visibly emotional. “The reason I’m getting emotional in this moment,” she explained, “is because the folks who tell us to move on, that it’s not a big deal, that we should forget what’s happened, or even telling us to apologise, these are the same tactics of abusers.”
“I’m a survivor of sexual assault, and I haven’t told many people that in my life,” she continued. “But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other.”
“Whether you had a neglectful parent or whether you had someone who was verbally abusive to you, whether you are a survivor of abuse, whether you experienced any sort of trauma in your life … These episodes can compound on one another.”
Ocasio-Cortez revealed as the riot began that day, she ran to her office and hid in her bathroom. Fearing for her life, she set up an Instagram Live to capture what was going on. At the same time, she heard yelling and banging outside her door and a man saying, “Where is she? Where is she?”.
“I thought I was going to die,” AOC said of the moment. “And I had a lot of thoughts. I was thinking if this is the plan for me, people will be able to take it from here.” Fortunately, the man yelling turned out to be a police officer, who told her to leave the building but did not stay with her to safely escort her out. With rioters storming the building from all angles, she instead fled her office and sought refuge with Rep. Katie Porter, where the pair hid for hours.
Once the Capitol building was secured, Ocasio-Cortez said that she went to Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s office, where she and their staffers stayed until around 4am. While there, AOC says that Pressley told her that what she had experienced earlier that day was traumatising and she needs to take care of herself. The validation “forced me to pump my brakes,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “If you have experienced any sort of trauma, just the fact of like recognising that and admitting it is already a huge step.”
“My story is not the only story, nor is it the central story,” she said, again noting that “these folks who are just trying to tell us to move on are… using the same tactics of every other abuser who tells you to move on.”