Honestly, I had never processed what happened to me. I had never walked through it piece by piece about what happened. After the Texas law passed, when I walked through it in my head and I’m like, waaaait a minute…that was rape. That was just a week and half ago when I realized that.
Was there a particular moment when you decided to share this story?
It developed over a few days—me just thinking, okay, you got to say something, but what will you say? In my district, some groups—Planned Parenthood, the ACLU—put together a rally. At the time, I said, Cori, okay, tell your story, but I didn’t tell this story. Last week was the first time that I had ever publicly told the story. My dad heard that story for the first time when everyone else did.
Were you afraid of that?
Absolutely. I grew up in a house where my dad was this giant, you know, this hero to me, even as a small girl before he went into politics, he was like the big guy, you know? Everybody knew him in the community. Everybody loved my dad and I didn’t want to disappoint him. My mother was still, you know, mommy, she was nurturing. It was scary for him to find out. Because he is a figure in St. Louis, what people would say to him? What would criticism look like directed at him? [I was] then also thinking about by telling this story how people would pull it apart and not get the message. I even saw some people on the same team saying, “Cori, we love the fact that you spoke up, but it shouldn’t matter if you’ve been raped or not.” I’m just saying that this was my story. It was a worry of mine—people not understanding the story.
You spoke very clearly specifically to Black women and girls in your testimony on abortion. I was just curious, did you feel like you were speaking to a younger version of yourself?
I was absolutely speaking to a younger version of myself. And even more directly, I was speaking to the 13-year-old girl that was at the clinic [the day I was there]. It was what I wish someone would have been saying to her. She was sitting in that clinic by herself. I just can’t get that memory of that out of my mind… She kept her head down the whole time that we were in that waiting area. She didn’t look up one time, and she was so petite, so petite. She had her hair back in one ponytail. She was just a child, you know. These adults were talking by her, like within earshot, and no one helped her and no one spoke up for her. So I was speaking to what I wish I could’ve and would’ve said to her, but then also to all of those that came before her and after her, and are now going through that.
People may feel like, Oh, she’s always just singling out Black girls and Black women. What I’m talking about is making sure that Black women and girls know that we are loved and that we are worthy because society tells us all the time in every area—whether it’s education or healthcare—that we are less than everybody. The fact that when we go missing, it doesn’t make the news, or if it does, it makes 23 seconds and we don’t hear about it ever again. So who builds us up? Who speaks out about us? That’s why that was important.
You’ve mentioned that some of your major decisions were led by this kind of energy inside of you. I was wondering if you had any thoughts about what that energy was.
It is definitely my relationship with my Lord. I am 100 percent someone who believes in prayer. But my Bible told me faith without works is dead. I can believe all day long, but if I don’t act on it… Pray with your feet, you know?