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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she is a sexual assault survivor. She says the Capitol riot should be treated like trauma.

Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY
·4 min read
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WASHINGTON – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described her experience during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as traumatic in an at-times emotional Instagram Live on Monday night, saying it "almost felt like a zombie movie or something."

She detailed an encounter with a Capitol Police officer whom she initially feared was a rioter. Near the time the mob breached the U.S. Capitol, she said, someone began banging on the doors of her office. Fearing that rioters had entered the building, she hid inside a bathroom within her inner office.

Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said she heard a man yelling, " 'Where is she?' And I just thought to myself, 'They got inside.'"

She said she saw a man wearing a black beanie through the door hinge and, as he continued to yell for her, "I thought I was going to die."

“This is the moment where I thought, 'Everything is over,'" she said.

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Ocasio-Cortez and her legislative director realized the man was actually a Capitol Police officer, but he didn't identify himself as such and "was looking at me with a tremendous amount of anger and hostility," she said.

Unsettled, Ocasio-Cortez said, her legislative director later remarked, “I didn’t know if he was here to help us or hurt us, either.”

The officer told them to go to another building but didn't offer specific safety instructions or an exact location, according to Ocasio-Cortez.

"It’s that lack of trust that creates so much volatility and fear," Ocasio-Cortez said.

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She and her legislative director ended up barricading themselves in Rep. Katie Porter's office, where staff pushed furniture up against the doors. In case they needed to run outside, she and Porter rummaged through staffers' things to find workout clothes to wear to better blend into the crowd. Ocasio-Cortez noted she had been running through the building wearing heels.

'These are the same tactics of abusers'

Close to tears, Ocasio-Cortez also criticized calls for everyone to "forget" the attack, comparing the rhetoric to that of abusers. Some members of Congress, she said, stoked the violence but are now encouraging people to move on "without any accountability."

"The reason I’m getting emotional in this moment is because these folks who tell us to move on, that it's no big, that we should forget ... these are the same tactics of abusers," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And I’m a survivor of sexual assault. ... But when we go through trauma, trauma compounds on each other."

" 'Can we just forget this happened so that I can do it again without recourse?' And that’s what these folks are asking," she said.

Ocasio-Cortez said she was sharing her story because it is important for survivors of trauma to recount their experiences.

"As a survivor, I struggle with the idea of being believed," she said.

Ocasio-Cortez said fellow members of Congress, including Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who objected to President Joe Biden's win and pushed former President Donald Trump's baseless theories that he lost because of widespread election fraud, should resign.

"When given another window of political opportunity for themselves, even if they know that it means that it will endanger their colleagues, they will do it again," she said.

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In her hour and a half Instagram Live, Ocasio-Cortez also disputed the notion that there was no way to know ahead of time just how violent Jan. 6 would become. She said she received messages from fellow members of Congress up to a week before the attack warning her about possible violence on that day.

She also said Capitol Police acknowledged ahead of time that there was a security plan in place but that the details of the plan could not be shared with members of Congress because of the risk of leaks.

Anyone who has said since there was no indication of the violence to come Jan. 6 "has lied to you," Ocasio-Cortez said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez describes Capitol riot in emotional Instagram