Sen. Joni Ernst says she's a survivor of rape, abuse

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has said she was raped while a student at Iowa State University. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has come forward with her story of being raped by a former boyfriend, saying she decided to do so after details of her divorce were made public earlier this week.

"I didn’t want to share it with anybody, and in the era of #MeToo survivors, I always believed that every person is different and they will confront their demons when they’re ready," Ernst told Bloomberg News in an interview published late Wednesday. "And I was not ready."

Ernst, 48, told Bloomberg that she was raped while a student at Iowa State University by a man who she described as "very abusive … physically and sexually abusive." She says that she ended the relationship and called the campus sexual assault counseling center's hotline, but did not report the rape to police.

After graduating from Iowa State in 1992, Ernst married her now ex-husband Gail and followed him to Georgia, where he was stationed with the U.S. Army. In court documents, Joni Ernst says she and Gail had an argument that "became physical" after she confronted him about the time he was spending with their daughter's baby sitter. Ernst elaborated on the alleged assault to Bloomberg.

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"He turned around at the landing, and he grabbed me by the throat with his hands and threw me on the landing floor,” she said. “And then he pounded my head … on the landing. It was very sudden and very violent. It scared me." Ernst said that the alleged assault took place in 2007 or 2008 when she was serving as an Iowa county auditor.

Ivan Miller, an attorney for 65-year-old Gail Ernst, did not immediately respond to Fox News' requests for comment.

In her affidavit, Ernst said she did not go to a hospital "because I was embarrassed and humiliated." She added that Gail Ernst agreed to attend marriage counseling, but told her "not to bring up the assault in our counseling sessions," a request to which she says "I stupidly agreed."

"We moved on," Ernst said in the document, "although things have never really been the same."

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In addition to the alleged physical assault, Ernst describes her ex-husband as "mean" and "verbally abusive" in the affidavit. She says she turned down the opportunity to be Donald Trump's running mate in the 2016 presidential campaign because "it wasn't the right thing for me or my family."

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"I continued to make sacrifices and not soar higher out of concern for Gail and our family," she says. "Meanwhile, he hated any success I had, and would belittle me and get angry any time I achieved a goal." Ernst also said her husband threatened to divorce her if she ran for re-election to the Senate in 2020.

In an affidavit filed by his lawyer, Gail Ernst said Joni's career was “all-consuming” and impacted the amount of time she spent with her family.

When the divorce was finalized this month, neither party was granted alimony. Gail Ernst did receive their home in Red Oak, Iowa, and other properties.

Fox News' Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.

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