In an emotional final congressional speech Thursday, outgoing Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) blasted the “misogynistic culture” that contributed to her resignation — the same culture that has enabled men accused of serial sexual predation to serve in influential roles in society, including President Donald Trump.
“We have an entire culture that has to change, and we see it in stark clarity today. The forces of revenge by a bitter, jealous man, cyber exploitation, and sexual shaming that targets our gender, and a large segment of society that fears and hates powerful women, have combined to push a young woman out of power and say that she doesn’t belong here,” Hill said in remarks on the House floor.
Earlier Thursday, the chamber voted to formally approve impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, marking Hill’s final vote.
“Yet a man who brags about his sexual predation, who has had dozens of women come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, who pushes policies that are uniquely harmful to women, and who has filled the courts with judges who proudly rule to deprive women of the most fundamental right to control their own bodies, sits in the highest office of the land,” Hill continued.
“I’m leaving, but we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence, and remain in board rooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body, and worst of all, in the Oval Office.””
Considered a rising Democratic star, the freshman California congresswoman announced her resignation Sunday, after the opening of an ethics investigation into unsubstantiated claims of a romantic relationship with a member of her staff while in office. Hill denied the claims while confirming and apologizing for an “inappropriate” relationship with a campaign aide last year.
It is against House rules for lawmakers to have sexual relationships with congressional staff. There are no rules governing relationships on campaigns.
Hill’s scandal has renewed attention on “revenge porn,” a tactic often used by domestic abusers, and often used against women. Earlier this month, right-wing websites published intimate photos of Hill and the campaign staffer and disseminated salacious rumors about her personal life. Hill has spoken about domestic abuse from her estranged husband, whom she is in the process of divorcing. He has not been directly linked to the photos.
“This is bigger than me. I am leaving now because of a double standard,” she said Thursday. “I am leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip. I’m leaving because I didn’t want to be peddled by papers and blogs and websites, used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics that I’ve ever seen, and the right-wing media to drive clicks and expand their audience by distributing intimate photos of me, taken without my knowledge, let alone my consent, for the sexual entertainment of millions.
“I’m leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality, and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching. I’m leaving, but we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence, and remain in board rooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body, and worst of all, in the Oval Office.”
In her resignation letter Sunday, she also called on perpetrators of “revenge porn” to be “punished to the full extent of the law,” and vowed to become an advocate for the larger issue, tying it to the many obstacles faced by women in public office.
Elected in 2018 amid the historic wave of women and young people running for public office in response to Trump’s election, Hill again apologized Thursday, especially to young women who saw her as a role model, before urging more women “to keep showing up.”
“Today, I ask you all to stand with me and commit to creating a future where this no longer happens to women and girls,” she said. “Yes, I’m stepping down. But I refuse to let this experience scare off other women who dare to take risks, who dare to step into this light, who dare to be powerful. It might feel like they won in the short term, but they can’t in the long term. We cannot let them. The way to overcome this setback is for women to keep showing up, to keep running for office, to keep stepping up as leaders, because the more we show up, the less power they have.”
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.