Former California representative Katie Hill is sharing the emotional toll of her public scandal a month after her resignation from Congress.
“I was overwhelmed by everything — by how many people had seen my naked body, by the comments, the articles, the millions of opinions, the texts, the calls,” Hill, 32, wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times. “I would start shaking, crying, throwing up.”
Hill opened up about contemplating suicide in the days after she announced her resignation and the bouts of depression she faced after leaving Congress early last month in The New York Times piece, which was published over the weekend.
The former representative came under fire in the House of Representatives after the conservative blog RedState and British tabloid The Daily Mail published allegations that she’d had a three-way relationship with a female campaign staffer and her husband. Nude photos of Hill were also published. The articles were attributed to an anonymous source, who Hill has claimed is her husband, Kenny Heslep — a man she’s labeled as estranged and “abusive.” He has denied this claim.
Hill, who identifies as bisexual, admitted to having an “inappropriate relationship” with a campaign staffer, but asserted it was consensual. Hill — who pulled off an upset in the 2018 election, flipping a longtime Republican district in the Los Angeles area in her first political run for office — has also denied accusations she had an affair with her legislative director, Graham Kelly.
In early 2018, Congress passed new rules forbidding relationships between lawmakers and their staffers in an effort to reduce sexual harassment and misconduct in political offices.
“I didn’t leave my apartment,” Hill recounted in the Times of the days following her resignation last month. “I felt so alone and didn’t know what to do.”
Hill said that just two days following her resignation announcement, she considered death by suicide after drinking a bottle of wine one night and pressing a box cutter against the veins in her arm.
“A part of my brain was saying: ‘Stop it, this is stupid. You’re not going to do it. Go drain the bathtub and get yourself together,’ ” Hill recalled. “But I felt like I was out of my body, like it was moving without me, and I got the paring knife and got back into the cold bath.”
“I stared at the veins in my wrists,” she continued. “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.”
Thankfully, Hill said that’s when she started to think of her family, friends, co-workers, and supporters who have all stuck by her side throughout the accusations, leaks, and her departure from Congress.
“I realized I couldn’t do it,” she said in the op-ed. “I ran the campaign knowing it was bigger than me and what I wanted, and it still is. I don’t get 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.”
After the incident with the box cutter, Hill said she got out of the bath and began writing her speech for the next day — her final one on Capitol Hill before leaving office. In the speech, the former representative said her mission is now to fight against “revenge porn” and the exploitation that she experienced.
“Now my fight is going to be to defeat this type of exploitation that so many women are victims to and which will keep countless women and girls from running for office or entering public light,” she said. “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.”
The Democrat didn’t allude to what’s next for her career, but she made her intention to stay involved clear.
“I’m in the fight,” Hill said, “and I’m glad it’s not all over after all.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.