The former congresswoman from California who was at the center of the whole “throuple” mess somehow remains in the headlines this week despite having tendered her resignation. The New York Post reports that the fallout from the various sexual misconduct stories and leaked nude photos brought such a deluge of “negativity” toward Katie Hill that she contemplated taking her own life at one point. Mental illness issues, including depression, are nothing to be taken lightly, but it may still be hard for some of us to grasp exactly what drove her to such a dark place considering how things worked out for her in the end.
Former California Rep. Katie Hill contemplated suicide after naked photos of her were leaked online, she revealed Saturday.
Hill, who resigned from Congress in October amid a “throuple” scandal and an ethics probe into an alleged relationship with a subordinate, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that she nearly sliced her wrists with a paring knife while sitting in a cold bath.
“I just wanted it all to be over,” she wrote. “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’ll confess that her description of the moment she considered ending it all is rather chilling. Sitting in a cold bath and pushing a paring knife against your wrist is clearly a cry for help. (Disclosure: I’m not a mental health professional. That’s an amateur observation.)
And I’m not saying that she had no reason to be depressed. She’d gone from being a “rising star” in the Democratic Party after flipping a red district seat to being out of a job and the focus of a sex scandal in rather short order. But it’s her description of why she ultimately decided not to go through with the suicide attempt that put me off a bit. She was in the bathtub, pressing the blade against her wrists, but here’s why she decided to stop. (From the original NY Times op-ed.)
And then I thought about my supporters. I thought about the high school students who had told me how I inspired them. I thought about the Girl Scouts whose troops I’d visited who told me they wanted to grow up to be like me, and how their parents would explain this to them, and what it would do to them. And I realized I couldn’t do it.
Again, I’m not unsympathetic to the distress Hill felt over her nude pictures being published. That’s got to be a terrible thing for almost anyone. But many famous people have gone through that and continued on to find success in their careers. (Erin Andrews of ESPN comes to mind.) The bigger point here is that the leak of the photos is also not why she’s out of office.
If the only “scandal” involved here were the revelation of the photos there would have been no reason for Hill to resign. If anything, she would have immediately become a sympathetic figure and the villain in the story would have been her husband who supposedly leaked them. (He has denied the claim, saying he’d been hacked.) The only reason Hill was facing any threats to her political career was the fact that she engaged in a sexual relationship with a campaign staffer who worked for her (which she has admitted) and had been accused of a second affair with a congressional staffer (which she denies).
Engaging in such a relationship with a campaign staffer is unethical. Doing so with a congressional staffer is a violation of House rules and can lead to anything from censure to removal. But if, as she claims, there was no relationship with the congressional staffer, she could have allowed the ethics investigation to play out and retained her seat. Instead, she chose to quit.
Katie Hill was the victim of someone who took her private photos and made them available to the public without her permission. But when it comes to the illicit affairs, the campaign staffer and (allegedly) the congressional staffer were the victims, not Hill. Precisely who she thinks she’s “inspiring” with that sort of behavior is a mystery. I’m sorry that she has fallen into depression and hope that she gets help. Other than that, the people of her district are probably better off putting all of this behind them and moving on.