Ernst opens up about past assaults

Ernst opens up about past assaults
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstFormer Iowa Gov. Vilsack won't challenge Ernst for Senate in 2020 Push for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 Ivanka Trump to meet with GOP senators to discuss paid family leave legislation MORE (R-Iowa) in a new interview with Bloomberg News opened up about her past experiences with assault, alleging she experienced attacks at the hands of her ex-husband and a boyfriend in college.

Ernst during the interview addressed the allegations, publicized this week in court documents, that her husband physically assaulted her during an argument years ago. 

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The Iowa Republican, a prominent ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE, also during the interview said that she was raped by an abusive ex-boyfriend in college at Iowa state University.

Ernst told the outlet that her unnamed boyfriend in college was "physically and sexually abusive." She said that he raped her at his home one night, and then later threatened to kill himself if she broke up with him.

She did not tell the police, she said, but alerted the campus sexual assault counseling center's hotline before ending their relationship. A man who knew Ernst at the time vouched that she told him about the assault shortly after it happened, according to Bloomberg News. 

Ernst later wrote about volunteering at that counseling center without disclosing her previous engagement with it.

“I was embarrassed,” Ernst told Bloomberg News. “I didn’t know how to explain it. I was so humiliated. And I’m a private person, when it comes to those things.”

Ernst also told the outlet about her allegation her ex-husband, Gail Ernst, attacked her physically when they were married. She said they were arguing about a woman when he "grabbed me by the throat with his hands and threw me on the landing floor."

"And then he pounded my head … on the landing," Ernst continued. "It was very sudden and very violent. It scared me.”

Ernst said that she told a victim's advocate about the incident but decided to move ahead in her marriage with the aid of couple's counseling.

“He said that it would never happen again and blah-blah-blah. And it didn’t,” Ernst said. “But there was always that underlying threat.”

She and Gail Ernst announced last year that they are getting divorced. Court documents earlier this week revealed that Ernst alleges physical abuse by him. 

Gail's attorneys have so far declined to comment on reporting about Ernst's allegations. He did not address them in the court documents. 

“I didn’t want to share it with anybody, and in the era of hashtag-MeToo survivors, I always believed that every person is different and they will confront their demons when they’re ready,” Ernst told Bloomberg News. “And I was not ready.”

Bloomberg reported that Ernst cried throughout the interview.  

Ernst during the interview defended her relationship with Trump, who has been accused of sexual harassment by more than a dozen women.

“It’s outrageous to suggest that anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault should therefore be a Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 Left-leaning journalist: Sanders would be 'formidable candidate' against Trump Clinton hits EPA for approval of pesticide dump: ‘We need bees!’ MORE supporter,” Ernst said. 

She also said that she stands by her decision to support now-Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump steps up attack on Planned Parenthood  Smollett saga shows it's no mistake when media target conservatives Supreme Court clamps down on 'excessive fines' by states MORE as he faced allegations of sexual assault from multiple women, including psychologist Christine Blasey Ford, during his confirmation hearings last year. He denied all accusations.

"I do believe [Ford] experienced trauma, but the evidence and witnesses presented by her contradicted her story,” Ernst told the outlet. “I don’t believe Justice Kavanaugh was the source of her trauma.”

“I’m seeking re-election," Ernst said. "I’m going to do it as a single woman. People know my situation now. What I can do is be honest about what happened. And I can move forward. The problem is now I’ve been outed when I was not ready to talk about it. But now maybe it forces me to talk about it.”