Trigger warning: Reference to sexual assault. On Monday night, in a brave and candid video on Instagram Live, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez revealed her deep trauma following the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol, and the prior traumas that had made it even more triggering. Ocasio-Cortez shared that she is a survivor of sexual assault: "I haven't told many people in my life," she said. She began crying during her retelling of the events of Jan. 6, but fought to continue to tell her story. "All of your traumas can, kind of, intersect and interact," she explained.
Ocasio-Cortez compared Republicans' insistence on telling her and other survivors of the Jan. 6 attack to "get over it" to the tactics used by abusers. She added: "The folks who are saying we should move on, we shouldn’t have accountability, etc., are saying: ‘Can you just forget about this so that we can do it again?’...I'm not going to let it happen to me again ... and I'm not going to let it happen to our country."
She shared that on Jan. 6, when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, she hid in the bathroom of her office. She heard someone break in, shouting, "Where is she?" over and over again. Ocasio-Cortez knew she was a target for threats; she had been told days before the attack that she must be careful, especially on Jan. 6. "I thought I was going to die,” she said. "I have never been quieter in my entire life."
Ocasio-Cortez explained that she had hidden in Representative Katie Porter's office in an effort to remain safe. At one point, she looked for left-behind gym clothes to hide in so she would be able to escape the Capitol unscathed. She detailed that she was prepared to jump out the window—"I'm fully bracing for impact"—and that she didn't know which officers to trust. "Are some officers safer than others because they have white-sounding names, or male-sounding names?"
She told viewers: "If you have experienced any sort of trauma, just the fact of recognizing that and admitting it is already a huge step. Especially in a world where people are constantly trying to tell you that you didn't experience what you experienced, or that you're lying...Those are additional traumas on traumas that you've already experienced. There's the trauma of going through what you went through, and then there's the trauma afterwards. Of people not believing you, or trying to publicly humiliate you, or trying to embarrass you."
Sadly, knowing that she's a target isn't new for Ocasio-Cortez. Last year, she told Vanity Fair: "I used to wake up in the morning and literally get a stack of pictures that were forwarded by Capitol police or FBI. Like, ‘These are the people who want to kill you today.'"
On Twitter, people praised Ocasio-Cortez for sharing her trauma in such a public way.
AOC finished by saying: "I have been giving myself time and space to try and heal...I think these are important stories to tell. My story isn't the only story. It's far from the central story. But together we have 435 stories. And we need to tell them because every time a Republican gets on television and says, 'We need to move on and forget about it,' they need to be reminded about what they're trying to absolve and excuse...If you've experienced trauma in your life, I want you to know that you don't have to have experienced the worst thing or the biggest thing...I hope you get the courage to get everything you need to do to heal."