When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was barricaded inside her office during the Capitol insurrection on January 6, she not only feared that mob would kill her, but that she would be raped if the rioters found her.
“I didn’t think that I was just going to be killed,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN’s Dana Bash in “Being…AOC,” the first episode of the new CNN series “Being…” that airs Monday night at 9 p.m. ET. “I thought other things were going to happen to me as well.”
Asked if that belief was driven in part by her experience as a survivor of sexual assault, Ocasio-Cortez said past traumas weighed on her mind as she hid.
“Survivors have a very strong set of skills. And the skills that are required as a survivor, the tools that you build for resilience, they come back in right away,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview in her district in June. “And for me, I felt like those skills were coming right back so that I could survive.”
She also traced the feeling back to what she described as the “misogyny and the racism” that “animated” the “attack on the Capitol.”
“White supremacy and patriarchy are very linked in a lot of ways,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “There’s a lot of sexualizing of that violence.”
Ocasio-Cortez first shared in February that she had been sexually assaulted years earlier. Her revelation in an Instagram Live video came less than a month after supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, breached security, and began to wend their way through its halls in search of lawmakers.
The congresswoman, just beginning her second term, described in the video being locked in the bathroom in her office, listening to banging on doors and eventually hearing a voice demand, “Where is she?” Ocasio-Cortez did not know at the time that it was a Capitol Police officer — because, she said, the officer did not identify himself.
“There’s no way that a person in that situation would have even thought that that was law enforcement,” she told CNN. “That’s not how we’re kind of trained into thinking.”
The decision weeks later to tell her story of sexual assault from her early 20s, she said, had not been “a conscious one.”
“You don’t say, ‘This is the moment. I’m going to do this now.’ It feels like something happens in the circumstances that almost propels you to, and almost forces you in a way to come forward,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Because I think a lot of survivors would rather never talk about what happened ever again.”
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