Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., questions Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington,DC on August 24, 2020. (Photo by Tom Williams / POOL / AFP) (Photo by TOM WILLIAMS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Recounts the Terror of the Capitol Insurrection

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Last night, on an Instagram Live video talking with supporters, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave a first-hand account of how close the Capitol rioters and insurrectionists got to her, and the moments when she was sure she was going to die. In the conversation, Ocasio-Cortez frankly discussed the trauma of that day as well, recounting the times she had to flee and feared for her life in vivid detail.

In a live video that lasted around an hour with over 150 viewers watching in real-time, Ocasio-Cortez recalled the details of January 6th. One of the most terrifying moments for Cortez came when she was evading the violent mod that had entered the Capitol, many of them doing so with the hope to take hostages and even kill members of Congress. At one point, Ocasio-Cortez found herself in a bathroom, hiding behind a door as someone on the other side shouted “Where is she!?”

Ocasio-Cortez spoke emotionally of that moment, of how time seemed to stretch out and how her brain raced with thoughts, convinced that this was the end. And at that moment she also felt something greater and a sense of hope.

“If this was the plan for me, people would be able to take it from here,” she told supporters, noting that she was thinking about them and the movement they had built ad become part of. “I felt that if this was the journey that my life was taking, that, I felt that things were going to be OK, and that, you know, I had fulfilled my purpose,” Ocasio-Cortex explained as her voice broke and she wiped away tears.

The man looking for her came into her office and did not identify himself. This person, who had Oscaio-Cortez frightened for her life, was a Capitol Police officer, who was identified by the Congresswoman’s staff, but that didn’t make her feel safe and looked at her with “a tremendous amount of anger and hostility.”

It will be easy for some people to dismiss this as an over-reaction. Most of the people doing that, sad to say, will be those who are not accustomed to fearing for their lives when confronted by someone who could easily use their privilege and power to harm you. Women, BIPOC people, LGBTQIA+ people, develop a very good sense of “this person hates me and wants to hurt me” because often it is true. And it is not okay to downplay that, or for people to expect anyone to “move on” from what happened on January 6th.

Those asking for Ocasio-Cortez and others who feared for their lives and nation to move on are, in AOC’s words: “using the same tactics of every other abuser who just tells you to move on.”And that’s not okay. “The reason I say this and 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. And, um, I’m a survivor of sexual assault,” Ocasio-Cortez explained and did not go further.

Following that revelation, headlines about Oscaio-Cortez’s account of January 6th have lead with “AOC Says She Is a Sexual Assault Survivor.” I have seen this on stories from The New York Times, CNN, and more. And while Ocasio-Cortez speaking out about this is important, it is troubling that it is her trauma as a victim of an assault that is getting headlines here, not the terror she felt less than a month ago when a violent mob sent by the sitting president and encouraged by members of Congress wanted to harm her and end our democracy as we know it.

If there was one takeaway from the MeToo movement that received widespread attention, it’s that almost every woman you know has been the victim of harassment, assault, rape, or gender-based violence. Hence “Me too.” It is an epidemic. Indeed it would be more illuminating to ask which female-identifying members of Congress have not been the victims of harassment or assault.

The focus on Ocasio-Cortez’s assault by the media today is telling; because it is easier to focus on this powerful, inspiring woman as a victim rather than as an advocate calling for consequences for a direct assault on our democracy. I am glad AOC is speaking out for victims of sexual assault, but it is not the only story here or even the central one. It is not an excuse to ignore or move on from January 6th.

It is time for the people who brought this terror to the Capitol, people like Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy, Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and their ilk to face full consequences for their crimes.

(via: The New York Times, image: TOM WILLIAMS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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Author
Jessica Mason
Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.