Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez opens up about sexual assault that spurred her meteoric political rise

·2 min read

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says in a new magazine article that being sexually assaulted a decade ago eventually spurred her to run for Congress.

Opening up about the rape, the progressive firebrand told GQ in an interview released Wednesday that the traumatic experience helped steel her desire to change the world around her.

“My sexual assault was a pivotal event in the trajectory that led me to run for office,” Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said. “I can say that in retrospect, but obviously I didn’t know that at the time.”

The future congresswoman recalled fearing that she would become pregnant after the rape and having to take a pregnancy test in a public bathroom in Manhattan.

“When I sat there waiting for what the result would be, all I could think of was, ‘Thank God I have at least a choice,’” Ocasio-Cortez said at a rally on the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Ocasio-Cortez, 32, never discussed the assault while running for office in 2018 or during her first term in the House. But after she feared for her life on Jan. 6, 2021, she began sharing bits and pieces of the painful memory.

She said that her instincts as a sexual assault survivor kicked in while she was hiding from the Donald Trump-supporting mob that stormed the Capitol.

“One major trauma that a lot of survivors of assault deal with is a struggle with being believed,” the congresswoman told GQ. “There are aspects of it that I may never share because of the trauma of having that experience litigated in public.”

Ocasio-Cortez said that her co-workers at a restaurant were among the first people she told. Some confided in her that they’d been assaulted as well.

She told GQ that her rapist was someone she was dating at the time but that they’d never been sexually intimate. She also said that when she confronted the man about the assault, the conversation did not go well.

The congresswoman added that she never spoke to police.

“If the vast majority of sexual assaults happen by a familiar person, the last thing you’re going to want to do is throw someone in jail,” Ocasio-Cortez told GQ. “There is an intersection with the work of abolition and healing and contending with the fact that we as people are capable of doing harm, but we are also capable of healing from harm.”