US Democratic politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said she is a survivor of sexual assault.
The congresswoman revealed her trauma as she accused Republicans who deflect blame for last month’s Capitol riot of using “the tactics of abusers”.
“I’m a survivor of sexual assault,” she said, fighting back tears. “And I haven’t told many people that in my life.”
She is one of the highest profile Democrats in Congress.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist who represents the 14th district in New York City, is also often a target of conservatives.
In an Instagram Live on Monday night, the 31-year-old disclosed little about her sexual assault ordeal, but said: “When we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other.”
She blasted conservative Republicans like Texas Senator Ted Cruz for denying what she described as their responsibility for the storming of the Capitol complex, which left five people dead.
After Mr Cruz last week agreed with Ms Ocasio-Cortez on a policy matter, she lashed out: “You almost had me murdered three weeks ago so you can sit this one out.”
AOC recounting her horrifying experience hiding in her office during the insurrection.
“I thought I was going to die…I have never been quieter in my entire life.” pic.twitter.com/t2P6FU3mFU
— Justice Democrats (@justicedems) February 2, 2021
In Monday night’s Instagram Live, she criticised Chip Roy, a Texas congressman, for demanding she apologise to Mr Cruz.
“These are the tactics of abusers,” she said during the broadcast to 150,000 or so viewers. “Or rather, these are the tactics that abusers use.
“And so when I see this happen, how I feel, how I felt was: ‘Not again.’ I’m not going to let this happen again. I’m not going to let it happen to me again. I’m not going to let it happen to the other people who’ve been victimised by this situation again. And I’m not going to let this happen to our country. We’re not going to let it happen.”
She also singled out Senator Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, who joined Mr Cruz in challenging the results of November’s presidential election amid debunked claims from now-former President Donald Trump that the vote had been stolen.
A pro-Trump mob broke into the Capitol on 6 January as lawmakers gathered to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory, and Ms Ocasio-Cortez described the ensuing mayhem as like a “zombie movie”.
During her Instagram Live, she said: “We cannot move on without accountability. We cannot heal without accountability. All these people telling us to move on are doing so at their own convenience.”
She added: “The folks who are saying, ‘We should move on,’ ‘We shouldn’t have accountability,’ et cetera, are saying: ‘Can you just forget about this so we can, you know, do it again?'”
Ms Ocasio-Cortez described hiding in her bathroom at her congressional office during the chaos of the Capitol riot last month.
“I thought I was going to die,” she said.
She recounted how she concealed herself behind the bathroom door, and glimpsed a white man storming into her office, shouting: “Where is she? Where is she?”
The congresswoman said it was a Capitol Police officer, but he looked at her with “anger and hostility” and did not identify himself as a member of law enforcement.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez said she and her staff did not know whether the officer was there to “help us, or hurt us”.
She continued: “For so many people out there if you have experienced any sort of trauma, like just the fact of recognising 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.
“Or that, you know, those are additional traumas on top of what you’ve already experienced, right, if you’re a survivor of abuse, of neglect, of verbal abuse, of sexual assault, you know, et cetera, 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.
“And that also gets internalised, too, because a lot of times you don’t want to believe it either.
“You don’t want to think that that happened to you. You don’t want to think that X person hurt you.
“You don’t want to admit that you were a person who has been abused, assaulted, et cetera, because you don’t want to be ‘a victim’, right?”
‘Are they going to believe you?’
Ms Ocasio-Cortez said she was prepared for criticism after sharing her sexual assault ordeal because it was not directly related to the Capitol riot.
“People are going to say that, ‘Oh, she’s just trying to make it about her,'” she said.
“And, like, all of those normal, nagging thoughts. And, like I said, all of your traumas can intersect and interact.”
She said Congress had made counsellors available for lawmakers, especially those who had encountered rioters, in order to help them process the ordeal.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez added: “Those 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 just tells you to move on.
“That man who touched you inappropriately at work, telling you to move on. Are they going to believe you?
“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.”