Iowa Senator: I Was Assaulted by Ex, Raped in College

In the wake of her divorce, startling revelations from Joni Ernst
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2019 9:20 AM CST
Iowa Senator: I Was Assaulted by Ex, Raped in College
In this Dec. 11, 2018, file photo, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, speaks at EPA headquarters in Washington.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Disturbing allegations have emerged in the wake of Joni Ernst's divorce, thrusting her straight into the middle of the #MeToo movement. The 48-year-old Iowa senator's divorce from Gail Ernst, 65, was finalized earlier this month, and in their divorce documents, the Republican accuses her spouse of 26 years of physically assaulting her after she confronted him about a possible affair, Politico reports. In an emotional interview with Bloomberg, Ernst says that, in either 2007 or 2008, she and Gail fought about a woman, at which point "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. It was very sudden and very violent." Ernst says she didn't want to cause trouble for Gail and wanted to make her marriage work, so they entered counseling; she says he was never physically abusive to her again.

Gail Ernst, who denied an affair in the divorce docs but didn't mention the abuse, accused his wife of having an affair with a subordinate while she served in the military. She says that's "not accurate," per the Des Moines Register. How the details broke on their troubles: Iowa law automatically makes divorce records public once the divorce is finalized; the media got its hands on the documents before the Ernsts could seal them. Ernst had another disturbing reveal for Bloomberg: She says she was raped in college by someone she was dating, and that he threatened to kill himself if she left him. She says she did leave him but didn't report that assault because she was "embarrassed" and "humiliated." "The problem is now I've been outed when I was not ready to talk about it," she says. "But now maybe it forces me to talk about it." She adds she's raring to go in her 2020 Senate reelection bid "as a single woman." (More Joni Ernst stories.)

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