The House Jan. 6 Committee held its first day of public hearings on Thursday evening, and it was rife with terrifying revelations both old and new. But between newly unearthed texts and accounts that former President Trump had approved of protesters’ demands for Mike Pence to be hanged, perhaps the most chilling new evidence the committee presented was additional body camera and video footage. As video shows armed, violent protesters breeching the premises, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) pointed out on Twitter that one of her colleagues, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.), was literally tweeting the location of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at that very moment.
Despite the very real, physical threat posed by rioters that day, AOC reminds us that she was later disparaged by right-wing figures, including her own co-workers, for expressing her fear of being attacked and sexually assaulted that day. “When I spoke of my fear of being raped again while locked in my office bathroom, @TuckerCarlson mocked it. So did Boebert. @NancyMace insinuated to her supporters it was a lie,” she tweeted on Thursday.
During the Jan. 6 insurrection last year, pro-Trump protesters—convinced by Trump and his allies that the presidential election had been stolen, despite zero evidence of this—stormed the U.S. Capitol. Amid the violence that ensued and in the days after, at least seven people died. And while rioters ransacked the Capitol, members of Congress and their staffs were forced to hide in fear for their lives for hours.
In the weeks following the insurrection, Ocasio-Cortez shared that she feared for more than just her life as she took shelter, first in her office bathroom and later with Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.). As a survivor of sexual assault, AOC also feared the very real possibility that she would be raped by protesters. “I’m a survivor of sexual assault. And I haven’t told many people that in my life. But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other,” she said in an Instagram Live video shortly after the insurrection. “I thought I was going to die… I have never been quieter in my entire life.”
AOC’s fears were by no means unfounded, despite how many of her colleagues—including those who had jeopardized her safety in the first place by pushing lies and egging on the insurrectionists—went on to mock her for this. As the identities of the insurrectionists were steadily unearthed, many were revealed to be men with histories of violence against women and sexual abuse, including a number who are regulars at threatening women outside abortion clinics. Insurrectionists were armed with guns and equipment to kidnap and take hostages; the insurrection itself in every way reflected a wartime act, and sexual violence is nearly always a byproduct of this.
The new footage with time stamps provided by the House Jan. 6 Committee further validates Ocasio-Cortez’s fears, underscoring just how serious the threat was as well as the complicity—if not proactive role—of her own Republican colleagues in jeopardizing her life and safety. Nonetheless, Ocasio-Cortez and her Democratic colleagues were more or less gaslighted shortly after the events of Jan. 6, forced to move on and continue working with fellow lawmakers who may have tried to kill them as if nothing had happened. “To those who wish to paper over their misdeeds by rushing us to all ‘move on,’ we can move on when the individuals responsible are held to account,” she said in her Instagram Live video at the time.
In her Thursday tweets, Ocasio-Cortez also called out Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) as one of the colleagues who chastised her for talking about her fear of being sexual assaulted, continuing: “I remember having a confrontation with Mace after what she did. I’m not even going to discuss it right now, but I will never forget that moment for the rest of my life.”
Mace, who’s also a sexual assault survivor, has more recently tried to position herself as a “reasonable” Republican for supporting rape exceptions to a possible national abortion ban if and when Roe v. Wade is reversed, emphasizing her lived experience. In this respect, Mace is yet another example of survivors policing or gatekeeping each other’s trauma—in this case, weaponizing her lived experience to condone forced pregnancy laws, while mocking Ocasio-Cortez for expressing fear.
The second day of hearings from the Jan. 6 Committee will be held Monday morning, and there may be as many as eight days of hearings this month and in September.