Former San Clarita congresswoman Katie Hill, who resigned her seat in October after nude photos of her were fed to a conservative website and she was accused of having an affair with a congressional staffer, describes in an op-ed for The New York Times how she nearly killed herself in the wake of the scandal and how determined she is to come back stronger than ever.
In 2018, when Hill seemingly came from nowhere at 31 to flip California’s 25th Congressional District after two decades of Republican rule, she felt as if nothing could stop her, she says: “I was excited. I felt ready for it. I knew I was a leader, that I represented my community, that I reflected the change that the country wanted and needed. I knew that I could be a voice for young people and women and people who had been left out for far too long. That I had to be.”
Hill, who has maintained that the photos were leaked by her estranged husband who threatened to “ruin” her if she ever left him (he denies this), recalls the humiliation she suffered less than a year later.
“Many people have nightmares in which they’re naked in public, trapped and trying to escape,” she writes. “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.”
Those feelings became overwhelming two days before she was to make her final address to the House, when she filled a bath, grabbed a bottle of wine, and a paring knife.
“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. 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. I thought about the people I had already let down so much. What would this do to my parents? To my brother and sister?”
Hill then thought of her supporters, especially some Girl Scouts she had spoken to, and realized, “I have to keep going forward, and be part of the fight to create the change that those young girls are counting on.”
Describing the red dress she wore for her final speech as “my battle uniform” and her red lipstick as “war paint,” Hill recalls telling Congress, “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.”
As for her future, Hill is defiant, optimistic, and forged in fire: “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.”
If you are in distress, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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