Katie Hill officially resigned as representative of California’s 25th district in October, but the 32-year-old says she’s just getting started pushing for change. In an interview following her panel at the 2020 MAKERS Conference, Hill reveals to MAKERS — for the first time publicly — that she was “sexually assaulted four times” before graduating high school, as well as opens up about being a bisexual former lawmaker who, despite what happened, is “not going away.”
What did “happen” to the former first-term Democrat in October is complicated. Less than a year after defeating the district’s incumbent to earn a seat in the House of Representatives, Hill became the subject of a whirlwind 10-day scandal that included intimate photos surfacing online, accusations that she was having an affair with her male legislative director and rumors that she was in an “inappropriate” relationship with a female staffer.
Hill chose to leave office in the wake of the firestorm but insists rumors about an affair with her legislative director were unfounded. She has confirmed a relationship with the female staffer, but says it was consensual. Still, she’s quick to admit that even a consensual relationship with a staffer may have been crossing a line. “I understand the complexities and the power dynamics and that's something that I have to live with — and it is a big part of the reason I resigned,” Hill says. “I understand that there's also not room necessarily for a gray area right now when we're kind of in the aftermath of #MeToo.”
Despite taking ownership of the relationship — which Nancy Pelosi called an “error in judgment” — the California-native says she herself is a victim as well. The photos and rumors that circulated, she claims, were part of a “coordinated effort” between conservative media and her “abusive” ex-husband to ruin her reputation. (Hill’s ex-husband has publicly refuted this, claiming that his computer was hacked. His attorney did not reply to MAKERS’ request for comment).
Beyond her suspicions about her ex-husband’s involvement, Hill believes that her status as an openly bisexual woman in a majority male and heterosexual Congress may have played a role in her downfall. “I think people don't understand even what [being bisexual] means, especially older generations,” Hill shares. “I can't tell you how much during the campaign ... people were like, ‘Oh, you're married to a man? Like, how can you still be bisexual?”
After news of her affair surfaced, Hill says she was overly sexualized by both peers and strangers. “You should have seen my DMs after all this happened, it’s was just all threesomes,” she says. “Because it’s a fantasy, right? Especially bisexual woman, so that’s part of what is challenging.” When asked if there may actually be more bisexual members of Congress — given the stigmatization and the increasing prevalence of those who identify that way nationwide — Hill replies: “Oh my god yeah. So many.”
But confusion and fear surrounding her sexuality, says Hill, is far from the only issue. Another one to note is what she views as the “double standard” around female sexuality — one in which women cannot be sexual beings without “being sexualized.” As a result, she says women are penalized far more for having relationships that cross the line, while men in similar circumstances often escape unscathed.
For Hill, who reveals for the first time that she’s a victim of sexual abuse, this subject is personal. “I was sexually assaulted four times before I even graduated high school,” Hill says. “I ended up in an abusive relationship probably in large part because of that.”
Hill says she is willing to accept the consequences of her actions but is faced with the painful reality that other men in Washington who are “credibly accused” of sexual assault don’t have to. “I don't think that we say that every single person who messes up should be ostracized forever. But I think you need to take ownership of it; you need to apologize,” says Hill. “You need to say you're not gonna do it again ... it seems to be impossible for most men to apologize and say they're not going to do it again.”
The former member of Congress believes it’s up to women to continue saying “it’s not OK” for men abusing their power to be in office. It’s part of the reason she’s formed a female-focused PAC aimed at getting more women elected. “I think we’ve got a huge fight ahead of us and if President Trump wins again, then we've got a real problem,” Hill notes. “At some point, we're going to have to take up our mantle and be warriors in the fight for equality ... and I fundamentally believe that it's women that are gonna save the world.”
Whether or not the rest of America agrees with her, Hill plans to keep going. “I think what they wanted was for me to go away, for me to disappear and kind of hide in the shadows,” Hill reflects. “But for me it’s about saying, ‘No, you can't take that from me. You can't take my voice from me, you can't take away what I got elected to do. It matters too much.’ It's sort of an act of defiance.”
Watch Hill’s full interview below:
Read more about the 2020 MAKERS Conference