Former Rep. Katie Hill declared in a New York Times op-ed Saturday that she was staying “in the fight” after a sex scandal forced her to resign from Congress and, she revealed, led her to contemplate suicide.
In the lengthy essay, the California Democrat framed her October resignation speech on the floor of Congress as a kind of feminist triumph over adversity. She recalled how “humiliated” she was by the revelation that she had an affair with a campaign staffer, along with the publication of nude photos of her and the young woman.
Hill also mentioned her husband’s “wild accusations” that she cheated on him with a man on her congressional staff, which she has denied. She described him as controlling and their marriage as full of “toxicity.”
“Many people have nightmares in which they’re naked in public, trapped and trying to escape,” Hill wrote. “In the days leading up to my resignation, my life was just like everyone’s worst nightmare. Millions of people had seen pictures of me naked. Hundreds of journalists, commentators, politicians and public figures had written or spoken about my ‘downfall,’ the ‘choices’ I made, the lessons young people should take from what happened to me, the impact it would have on politics moving forward, the responsibility I bore for all of it.”
Although Hill said she received “tremendous support,” her shame was made worse by the messages she and her offices got from critics, which she described as “horrible” and “lewd and threatening.”
What about the children?
One evening, two days after announcing her resignation, Hill said, she “drew a bath, lit candles and brought over a bottle of wine.”
She said she drank the bottle in the bath and “thought about what I’d lost.”
“The people on my team and in my life who had been hurt and had done nothing wrong. Everyone I’d let down, everyone who worked for me, who campaigned for me, who believed in me. The future I thought was in store for me that was instantly and irrevocably gone. My own mistakes had led me there, but there were other things at play. And those pictures — no one should have ever seen them,” she said.
“How could I ever face anyone again knowing what they’d seen? Knowing what they knew?”
Then, she said, she brought a pairing knife into the bathtub, which had turned cold, and contemplated suicide.
“I stared at the veins in my wrists. They were so thin. They were green in the candlelight. I started tracing them with the edge of the knife, lightly at first, then pushing harder and harder,” she said. ” The knife was duller than I thought. It surprised me how hard I had to push simply to scratch the surface. Fine red lines started to appear, and I knew that if I pushed just a tiny bit harder I would start to bleed.”
However, Hill said, at that moment she thought about her family and her supporters, especially the children she sees herself as a role model for, and decided, “I don’t want to quit. I have to keep going forward, and be part of the fight to create the change that those young girls are counting on.”
When Hill tweeted out her op-ed Saturday afternoon, she added: “Trigger warning: suicide (they don’t offer one in the paper.)”
Katie Hill says AOC helped her come back from near-suicide
The next day, Hill said, she wrote her farewell speech before attending a goodbye party with other freshmen Democrats.
“I spent the evening with history-makers, change-makers, majority-makers, role models and heroes to millions. Some great men, but mostly women. Women who will be remembered forever. But that night, they were just my friends,” she said.
According to Hill, everyone told her that she “wasn’t done,” and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, gave her a pep talk.
“Alex — ‘A.O.C.,’ as people like to call her — said I was a warrior and always would be,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the “Squad” made similar comments in public.
Hill, who quit amid a House ethics committee investigation of her actions, also said that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had not demanded her resignation, as some have speculated.
“She told me I didn’t have to do this, that the country needed me and that she wished I hadn’t made this decision, but she respected me and what I felt I needed to do,” Hill said. “I told her what I told everyone else when I announced my resignation: that it was the right thing to do.”
In the morning, Hill said, she put on her “battle uniform: a red dress suit that my mom had bought me,” and her “war paint: bright red lipstick” and delivered her speech.
“I stepped up to that lectern and told the world that although my time in Congress was over, I wasn’t done — I was just moving to another battlefield,” she recounted. “I closed my speech, saying: ‘We will not stand down. We will not be broken. We will not be silenced. We will rise, and we will make tomorrow better than today. … I yield the balance of my time for now, but not forever.’ I meant that not just for myself, but for all of us.”
Hill concluded the op-ed by saying: “I don’t know exactly what’s ahead for me, and I know there’s a lot more pain ahead. But I’m in the fight, and I’m glad it’s not all over after all.”