Elk Grove Mayoral Candidate Continues to Speak Out About Own Sexual Assault Amid Kavanaugh Controversy

ELK GROVE -- It's not the story you would expect to hear a candidate sharing six weeks out from an election.

"My first kiss was a rape. I was just a month after my 15th birthday and it was a family friend, someone we trusted," said Tracie Stafford. "Who would I tell? You don't know what to do. You don't know what your options are and there's that shame."

It's been 37 years since Stafford found herself in the shame tied to rape by a friend, a shame that would be recreated by that friend's brother.

"And I fought and I cried and I said, 'No,'" Stafford said.

By that time in life she was already a victim of child abuse and on her way to being a third-generation survivor of domestic violence as a result of her first husband.

In her family, private pain was kept private.

"All of that had taught me that being a woman was not safe," she said.

It's part of a disturbing message Stafford saw replaying as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was criticized for finally sharing what she says happened to her at the hands of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. A second woman, Debbie Ramirez, has stepped forward to accuse Kavanaugh as well.

The situation motivated the remarried mother of four and candidate for Mayor in Elk Grove to post about her almost three-decadelong delay in coming forward on Facebook.

In 2007, Stafford says she found her confidence and her courage in something that many believe is actually damaging to women -- beauty pageants. One of her many titles was Mrs. California United States.

Finding her advocacy platform under the crown helped her end years of avoiding makeup and wearing clothes that were two sizes too big so no one would see her.

"If you were to sit me in a therapy room to try to help myself it's not going to work out, but if I'm sharing something for someone else then it just flows," Stafford told FOX40.

Over 10 years she was able to make all her private pain public, sharing her story all over the world.

After working so hard to reclaim the beautiful parts of herself, she never expected her looks would be a sticking point for voters and consultants alike in her campaign.

"'Her clothes are too form fitting and too tight.' 'She really shouldn't wear so much makeup.' My makeup is a five-minute job in the car," Stafford said.

After all she's overcome to even be able to put her face on a campaign poster, she says she'll endure it all to raise someone else up.

"So that those who are suffering in silence understand that there's nothing wrong with them," Stafford said.