Let me start by telling you my story.
I am a woman in a male dominated industry. I’m a young woman in a male dominated industry. At the time of the incident, I was a younger woman. Even then, there is no one, not a single colleague or friend, who would have described me as a wallflower. I was meaner then actually. Tougher. I was what they call women of my kind (annoyingly) a “bull dog.” But the night that I went to a very popular and crowded bar after an official work function and ran into an older, wealthier, powerful male colleague – none of my tenacity or self possession mattered at all. And it surprised me.
I thought when or if the day came that a man grabbed me or touched me or kissed me or worse without my permission I would push him away dramatically and make the bold statement of a movie heroine, “off with thee you foul scum!” Because that was the kind of woman I was (am). A bit of man hater with a conservative twist.
But that’s not what happened. When I was harassed (technically I was assaulted because he very much so touched me without my permission and with my express request that he not, but I like to reserve the term “assault” for women who have been hurt a lot more than me), I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I clammed up. I told him to stop touching me and I cried. He continued to touch me.
The probably 50 men in the bar including ranking members of Congress, senior Congressional staff and my friends and colleagues did nothing. The female friend I was with did nothing until the last minute. The female bartender continued to serve him alcohol. I felt embarrassed, alone and small. How could I have let this happen? Did I flirt with him? How do I make him stop?
The next work day I reported the incident to my boss and insisted I never speak with the man again. I was promised, though I did not ask for it, that he would be barred from working with the office where I worked. This promise was not kept and only two weeks later it was broken. The man with all his money and all his connections would always be more important than me.
This is a mild story amongst hundreds and thousands like it. Women face sexual harassment and aggression and even assault all the time. He was drunk when he did it to me but I’ve been around a lot of drunk men and they’ve never done that. His behavior was predatory and had I been even a slightly weaker woman he could have done of a lot worse. So any narrative in your head that strong women don’t let these things happen, that you’d do it differently, that women just get too drunk – clear it from your head. That’s not the case.
I don’t tell this story with many details because I’m not a victim of anything. It was a bad thing and he’s a bad man and he has lost my trust and my business and so have the people who betrayed me that day. That’s all we can do in life is control our outcomes and our narrative to the best of our ability. I would also never use this story to hurt someone who was not this man who did this to me. Including those who stood around and watched. Which is why their names aren’t present.
So when Alexandria Ocasio Cortez decided to reveal her sexual assault, for which I am truly sorry as a fellow woman who has experienced this, in order to compare specifically by name two innocent men who did not conduct this assault or even allow it, I was not only horrified and insulted but hurt.
It hurts my story and stories like mine (the hundreds and the thousands way worse than mine) when women like AOC use their stories for political advantage or posturing. It makes our stories seem false. It makes them seem convenient. AOC has set back thousands of women by revealing her assault in the way she did. She has put us in the position, like now, of having to share our personal histories in order to have the credibility to confront her on her truly selfish, absurd and deplorable assertion that Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley’s opposition to characterizing the Capitol riots as attempted murder is the same as being a rapist.
AOC’s assailant should be held accountable. So should she for the harm she has caused women today.