It has been nearly a month since white supremacists and supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed Capitol Hill. On Monday night, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez held an Instagram Live to discuss how she's been handling trauma brought on by the insurrection. During the video, Ocasio-Cortez opened up about her own experiences as a survivor of sexual assault, and how the political conversations surrounding the Capitol siege often reflect the rhetorical tactics abusers use.
The Capitol siege shook many people nationwide and prompted an immediate response from Democratic representatives. Exactly a week after the siege, the House impeached Trump for inciting the coup attempt, making him the first president in the history of the U.S. to be impeached twice. But some Republicans have argued that the events of the day should be brushed aside. In response to the House's impeachment, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said, "I hope that Republicans won't participate in this petty, vindictive, final attack directed at President Trump. We should just move on."
These demands to "just move on" prompted a response from Ocasio-Cortez on Instagram. Shortly after Jan. 6, Ocasio-Cortez described the insurrection as "traumatizing", sharing that she had a "very close encounter" and, "I did not know if I was going to make it to the end of that day alive." It's clear that the events of that day are still sitting with her, though; to illustrate how violent the demands to "just move on" are, in her latest video Ocasio-Cortez disclosed some of her own personal history.
“The reason I’m getting emotional in this moment is because these 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 apologize — these are the same tactics of abusers," she said.
"And I’m a survivor of sexual assault," she continued. "And I haven’t told many people that in my life, but when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other. And so 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 experience any sort of trauma in your life small to large, these episodes can compound on one another.”
Throughout her time in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez has often faced abuse from her colleagues, like Florida Rep. Ted Yoho (R) calling her a "fucking bitch" during an argument outside the Capitol. She was also subjected to racist remarks from Trump, who once told Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the Squad to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came." (Not that it matters, but Ocasio-Cortez was born in America.)
The amount of vitriol directed at Ocasio-Cortez certainly shaped her experiences during the insurrection. She outlined a harrowing incident during the raid, when a man broke into her office. While she was hiding in her bathroom, she could hear the man asking, "Where is she? Where is she?" She went on to add, "This is the moment where I thought everything was over ... It felt like my brain was able to have so many thoughts in that moment between these screams and these yells. I go down and ... I thought I was going to die."
The man ended up being a Capitol police officer, Ocasio-Cortez said. She said that he did not identify himself, and that "he was looking at me with a tremendous amount of anger and hostility." She shared that her legislative director later said, "I didn't know if he was here to help us or hurt us"
Her Instagram Live appearance ended up trending on Twitter. Ocasio-Cortez took to the app after ending her video to write, "My story isn't the only story, nor is it the central story of what happened on Jan. 6. 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."
"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," she added. "And to those who wish to paper over their misdeeds by rushing us all to 'move on' — we can move on when the individuals responsible are held to account."