The push for Democrats to take back the House has huge implications, and for one candidate running to represent her district in Los Angeles County, Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing last week made those implications even clearer. Watching the Kavanaugh process go on, California congressional candidate Katie Hill discussed sexual assault head on while campaigning, including discussing her own experiences, to address how far-reaching the effects of the midterms will be.
Since declaring her candidacy in March 2017, Hill has been unapologetic about all aspects of her life — from living with family while getting out of from under her husband's medical debt to being bisexual — and that is how she's facing the issue of sexual assault, too, following a trend of this year's women candidates not shying away from personal issues considered controversial by many in a quest for authenticity and personal connections with voters.
And the only way that it changes is by getting people in Congress who are truly going to represent all women, young women — women who have not had a voice.
After Christine Blasey Ford's came forward in The Washington Post last month, Hill uploaded a video to Twitter with the hashtag #WhyIDidntReport. "I have experienced sexual assault multiple times," Hill said in the video. "As someone who has processed that throughout the course of my life, I know how hard it is for somebody to come forward."
"So many people responded to the [video] and said, 'Because you shared this, I feel like I can share my story,'" Hill tells Bustle. "I think it's a matter of opening up and saying, 'Yeah, I'm here, this has happened to me, it's real, and this is why I didn't come forward before."
Then came the hearings last Thursday, when Ford told her story to the Senate Judiciary Committee — and the committee advanced him anyway. "To have people basically say, 'We believe you, but we don't care.' That's even worse. That's just a slap in the face. That steeled me so much more to say, 'Nuh uh. This has to change,'" she says. "And the only way that it changes is by getting people in Congress who are truly going to represent all women, young women — women who have not had a voice."
Hill is out listening to those voices, particularly in her district where she has organized a mediated discussion this Thursday with high school and college-aged women closed to the press and public. "We intend to create a safe space where we can discuss a culture that perpetuated this kind of behavior and how I, as an advocate, can be a voice for all women and survivors in Congress," Hill said in a statement announcing the meeting.
Even before, though, she was already hearing from women out on the trail. "I feel like every single woman I meet comes up to me and says they've experienced [sexual assault]," Hill says. "I feel like we have to have that as a critical segment of the population moving forward that needs to be represented."
Representation is a huge aspect of Hill's campaign, whether it's with regards to the boxes she checks — "millennial," "woman," "LGBTQ" — or what drives her. Hill tells Bustle that with more women represented in Congress, things like advancing Kavanaugh wouldn't happen. Currently just 84 women are elected to the House and 23 to the Senate. "It's impossible this past week to not see — just so starkly, in your face — how important it is that we get to true equal representation because we're never going to get to equality if we don't," Hill says.
Hill said she sees the races women are running across the country — and her potential election — as moving the country one step closer to 50-50 gender parity in Congress.
"I want to be a voice for other women — these are voices that need to be heard," Hill tells Bustle. "We're on the precipice of having a Supreme Court that could literally have old white men telling us what we can do with our bodies in the most basic way. It shows you the disparity in power that exists still and that my generation is not going to tolerate."
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.