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Why Joni Ernst Is Defending Her Kavanaugh Decision — and Talking About Abuse, Rape Allegations

The GOP senator's #MeToo moment occurred after details of her divorce became public

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) defended her decision in an interview this week to support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation last year — and revealed to Bloomberg that a boyfriend raped her in college.

Ernst also discussed the difficult topic of allegations of abuse against her ex-husband, Gail Ernst.

The senator told Bloomberg this week she decided to talk publicly about a years-old rape after the media reported details of her allegations against her ex-husband this week.

The vice chair of the Senate Republican Caucus is the Senate’s fourth highest-ranking GOP member; Ernst is an Army veteran. By publicly discussing rape and abuse allegations, she became one of the most high-profile Republican women to relate to the #MeToo movement.

Against her will, private details of her divorce affidavits were unsealed this week. She told reporters on Wednesday that “what I want people to understand is that I am the same person as I was last week. You just know more about what’s inside of me now.”

Ernst, 48, told Bloomberg, “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.” She added, “And I was not ready.”

The senator accused her ex-husband, with whom she shares a daughter, of physically assaulting her more than 10 years ago during an argument.

Gail Ernst “grabbed me by the throat with his hands and threw me on the landing floor,” the senator alleged. “Then he pounded my head … on the landing. It was very sudden and very violent. It scared me.”

Her ex-husband denied the allegations. Ernst never reported the attack to the police.

Sh told Bloomberg about her sexual assault during her time at Iowa State University. She said her “very abusive” boyfriend at the time, whom she chose not to name, was “physically and sexually abusive” and raped her inside his home one night.

Although Ernst broke up with that boyfriend and called the campus sexual assault counseling center’s hotline, she did not report the assault to the police.

Bloomberg said Ernst “may face fresh criticism” due to her support of Kavanaugh and President Donald Trump, both of whom have been subject to sexual assault allegations and denied them.

Ernst took issue with this. “It’s outrageous to suggest that anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault should therefore be a Hillary Clinton supporter,” she said.

Many Democratic senators and liberals activists were immediately opposed to Kavanaugh’s nomination, yet his confirmation process descended into absolute chaos after last-minute sexual assault allegations were leveled against him — which he vehemently and consistently denied.

Related: Brett Kavanaugh’s Return to Coaching Did Not Qualify as a ‘Public Safety’ Story

Christine Blasey Ford on September 16 alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a high school gathering 36 years earlier in Maryland, when they were both high school teens. Two other women, Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, then also came forward with sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.

The FBI investigated the claims — and found no corroboration at all for any of them.

Kavanaugh denied the allegations unequivocally and Trump stood by his nominee. Only one GOP senator — Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski — refused to vote for Kavanaugh as the rest of the Republican senators ultimately unified around him in a 50-48 vote on October 6.

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

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