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Gaslighting: Don’t Tell Me (and AOC) To ‘Move on’ After the Capitol Insurrection

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Editor's Note

This article contains details of the events on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021, and may be triggering.

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

I wrote this article and was ready to submit when news broke about Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s impassioned statements last week. She spoke to me in a deep-down place and I was moved by her courage. It should not be courageous to state your truth, but it is because society silences all of us who are victimized. Her statements about compounded violence reminded me of my own story and how the abuse was relentless from all corners and nowhere was safe. I could see her cower in that bathroom, thinking is it my time again. Will I live through this, this time?

• What is PTSD?

Her fellow colleagues are now trying to move on and tell her pain was not real or out of proportion to the crime. This is abhorrent. Of course, she is suffering the aftereffects of the violence at the Capitol. We all are — all of us who witnessed and recognized we were also under fire of an angry mob ready to do harm at all cost, and that women of color were in their crosshairs.

She talks about her colleagues’ efforts to force her to just “get over it” and move on, to accept what happened and forgive and forget. This is an ongoing trauma since she is still working with these people, She is still under constant threat and the concern is that they have not taken any responsibility or moved to change their ways. To a survivor, this is familiar. This is what being gaslit is all about.

So, I submit to you my article about being gaslit by the complicit actors at the Capitol. Those in our government that now stand idly by and ask not for forgiveness or to take responsibility, but just for us to move on as if it is just our problem. 

I feel gaslit after the insurrection at the Capitol with all of this talk by leaders about letting the past be in the past and that punishing anyone would be divisive.

No Justice, No Peace

Let me be clear: there is no healing without accountability. There is no peace without justice.

I spent 20 years being abused and another 30 trying to heal from it. Some say to me: “You should move on and forgive. You should let the past be in the past. You will not heal if you do not just let it go.”

To all of that, I say: I have never received an apology. No one has been punished. No one has taken responsibility and I am sure they would do it again given the chance.

How do you move on from that? They would literally do it again.

The Capitol was overtaken by white supremacists who believed that my presence in this country is illegitimate and that I should be removed by force. They believe that they are righteous and are acting on behalf of God.

The leaders in Congress are gaslighting us. Trying to make us think that we are the problem. That if we would just get along, there would be no problem. If we would just move on and not harbor resentment, this would all go away.

The insurrectionists tried to capture and kill members of Congress and the Vice President. They were out for blood and they had coconspirators in Congress (as we are finding out).

Without accountability, there is no room for justice. If my abusers took responsibility and were held accountable, possibly, I could begin to really heal and move on.

This nation cannot really heal until we reckon with our past of racial injustice and trauma.

I am clear that what happened on January 6, 2021, was a direct assault on all of us but especially on people of color in this country. These terrorists (or whatever noun works for you) are loose in this country and I do not feel safe.

What this brings up for me?

I feel trapped in an environment in which I feel constantly under attack. My abusers held me captive for 20 years with no safe place to retreat to.

Once again, the abusers get to walk away scot-free. They are being told, “You have been naughty, so do not do it again,” when they assuredly would do it again if given the opportunity. No lessons have been learned here. No accountability has been established.

So, I am supposed to forgive them. I am supposed to say, “I understand you are angry. Yes, you are oppressed, but I am willing to overlook your transgressions.”

No one showed me any grace. No one said, “you do not deserve to be abused so it will not happen to you.”

Needless to say, I am tired of all this talk about the abused and under siege moving on and forgiving. That is not acceptable.

I will not be gaslit into believing that I am the problem. I am not the problem, but I will insist on a solution. There must be accountability and justice for the guilty.

And I want an apology, too.

Photo by Caique Silva on Unsplash

Originally published: February 8, 2021
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